Tony Becca | A day to remember
As I walked around Sabina Park two Saturdays ago during the first day of the second Test between the West Indies and India, this was the question asked by everyone: "Who is this boy, Chase, and where is he from?"
By the close of play on Wednesday, the last day of the Test match, his name was a household one. And it was so huge that no one will ever forget it.
Roston Chase, a 24-year-old Barbadian, is an all-rounder, and a good one at that.
Going to bat, with the West Indies needing 256 to avoid an innings defeat after India had made 500 for nine declared, and the West Indies struggling on 48 for four in their second innings, and after rain had washed out most of the fourth day's play, Chase batted the West Indies to an unexpected and well-deserved draw.
Chase joined forces with the rain from the so-called storm that had threatened Jamaica and the Test match, and with five wickets in India's one innings, plus an innings of 137 not out, and a brilliant run out of Cheteshwar Pujara when India were 208 for one, pulled the West Indies to safety after they were looking down the barrel of defeat.
The fans who witnessed it, the lucky few and their friends, were privileged.
They all had come to Sabina Park, those who did not have to work in one capacity or the other, expecting, as usual, nothing but a short, tame, and embarrassing resistance.
The box-holders, by their own confession, expected an early lunch, and definitely, no tea.
Resuming their second innings, after the fall of Rajendra Chandrika, Kraigg Brathwaite, Daren Bravo, and Marlon Samuels on the rained-out fourth day, batsmen who all died without a fight on a pitch on which the ball bounced unpredictably, the next four batsmen all covered themselves in glory before the dedicated few and hardcore gathering of spectators.
Jermaine Blackwood, Chase, Shane Dowrich, and captain Jason Holder all batted with unusual easy confidence as the runs flowed around Sabina Park, and to all parts of the field, as if they were propelled by some unseen hand rather than by the hands, and feet, of the four 24-year-olds.
It was a brilliant batting display from one Jamaican and three Barbadians, their stroke play, a throwback to the memorable days of yesterday when West Indian batsmen ruled the roost.
Blackwood was all aggression as he matched his lovely first innings 62 off 62 deliveries with another gem of an innings of 63 off 54 deliveries as he danced down the pitch and dispatched the Indian bowlers, including the dangerous Ravichandran Ashwin and Mohammad Sami, to the boundary.
His attack on the bowlers was a joy to see.
There was one regret, however: For a number-five batsman, one would like to see Blackwood temper his batting somewhat. Two hundreds, which he looked like getting, one in either innings, would, as invaluable as both knocks were, have served the team much better.
Dowrich, batting at number seven, batted as if he was born to be there. He came out with the team still in trouble, he batted quietly for a start, and then he reeled off some attractive drives before he was unfortunately ruled out leg before wicket for 79 after stroking six fours and hitting one six.
Holder batted as how he promised when he was a schoolboy, and almost how he has batted sometimes since being the captain of the team.
He was confident, and two front-foot extra-cover dives and one pull to the mid-wicket boundary were evidence of his timing during his innings of 64 not out with eight fours and one six.
All three batsmen, however, sharing partnerships of 93 off 16.4 overs, 144 off 38.1 overs, and 103 unbroken off 33 overs for the fifth, sixth, and seventh wicket with the Man of the Match, were second, a very close second, to be exact, to Chase.
Joining the action at the start of the day's play, he started tentatively until he found his rhythm on a pitch off which the ball was now coming slowly and the bounce of it more predictable.
When he did, shortly after Blackwood's dismissal, there was no stopping him, and the small crowd warmed to him as the handclaps echoed around the partially empty stadium.
He drove, and cut, and pulled with audacity and impunity. Sami, Umesh Yadav, Ishant Sharma, Ashwin, and Amit Mishra were all treated with the same disdain, and his 18 boundaries and one six were testimony to that. His drives off the spinners and his pulls and hooks off the pacers, a pull off Sami, a drive through mid-off off Sharma, and a drive through long-on off Ashwin, were strokes of beauty.
mixture of emotions
When India's captain, Virat Kohli, prompted the umpires to call off play and to leave the field for the last time, there was a mixture of emotions. The fans were happy that the West Indies had drawn the Test match, but they were sorry, very sorry, that the day had come to an end.
It is said that when Barbados is strong, the West Indies is strong, and with 22-year-old Shai Hope replacing Chandrika in the squad and possibly joining Kraigg Brathwaite, Chase, Dowrich, Miguel Cummins, and Holder in the team and bringing the Barbados complement to six, hopefully, the West Indies, one down in the contest, will be ready for India in the Test match starting in St Lucia on Tuesday.
Happily, only two wickets fell all day two Saturdays ago at Sabina Park as the West Indies ended the day on 388 for six, 340 runs were scored in fine style in 390 minutes and 87.1 overs, and the legendary Garry Sobers' feat of a century and five wickets in one innings in a Test match at Headingley in 1966 was equalled by a relatively unknown playing in only his second, unforgettable Test match.