Quick wickets neutralise Australia's lead
by Jinu Sabastian

Ground:Western Australia Cricket Association Ground, Perth
Scorecard:Australia v West Indies
Player:SJ Benn, DJ Bravo, DE Bollinger
Event:West Indies in Australia 2009/10

DateLine: 18th December 2009


It was an excellent advertisement for Test cricket as Australia and West Indies fought tooth and nail to claim the supremacy of the third Test. If the morning session was a balanced affair Australia claimed the second session while West Indies snatched the third Test evenly balanced. Though Australia took a massive lead the West Indian bowlers were disciplined enough to choke the Australian run-rate and with it plucked out precious wickets.


After being the victim of a ferocious gale unleashed by Chis Gayle, the Australian bowlers struck back magnificently to pull the mat from under the feet of Windies. Bollinger struck in the second ball of the day as he got Sarwan, who failed to add to his overnight score, to play a loose drive at an out-swinger which was snapped up by Hussey at gully. Deonarine (18) never looked comfortable in the middle unlike his stay last evening and Johnson ended his stay when the left-hander played an uppish drive to covers where Watson took a low catch. Brendon Nash and Dwayne Bravo then took over the scoring duties and the duo ensured that the Australians did not make any further inroads.


Nash was subjected to some short-pitched bowling from the Johnson-Watson combo but the gritty left-hander was competent enough to sway out the harm's way. Bravo tried hard to curb his aggressive instincts but when he realised that it was not his style of play he opened up. Nash meanwhile displayed his patience on a track that promised runs to batsmen who were willing to bide their time and the duo took their team to lunch without any further loss. But after lunch disaster struck for the West Indian side as wickets tumbled one after the other.


Bravo got the second session of to a good start with a perfectly drilled straight-drive but of the next ball Bollinger got him to edge one through to Haddin. Bravo made a fluent 26 of 49 balls and next to go was Nash (44) when he edged the much abused off-spinner Hauritz to Clarke at first slip who took a tumbling catch. It did not take much time for the Australian bowlers to wipe out the reaming remnants of West Indian batting line-up as when debutant Gavin Tonge (2) threw his bat at a wide one from Bollinger and was taken by Haddin the left arm swing bowler had claimed his first five-fer in Test cricket.


With a massive lead of 208, the Australian skipper Ricky Ponting did not enforce the follow-on and opted to bat. Australia lost Katich (10) in the fourth over of the innings when he walked too much across the stumps to expose his leg stump which was knocked over by an accurate Rampaul. To the surprise of many it was Clarke instead of Ponting who strode out at number three. The pair took the Australian side to lunch without much damage and with the comfort level being displayed by the two batsmen it seemed that the Windies bowlers were in for a long day as Watson was warming up with a brace of boundaries. Post-tea the pair was on look-out for some quick runs but unfortunately for Australia Tonge trapped the right-hander leg before with a sharp off cutter. The on-field umpire agreed with the bowler's appeal but Watson was unconvinced and after a brief consultation with Clarke decided to challenge the decision. The third umpire did not take long and agreed with the on-field umpire and declared Watson (30) out.


The Windies bowlers kept the pressure up with asphyxiating tactics and finally Clarke (25) unable to control his urge lashed at one well outside his off stump to be snaffled up by Ramdin of a tireless Bravo. Gayle brought in Benn in the 29th over and the beanpole left-armer struck immediately when Hussey (17) gloved a straight-forward catch to Dowlin at short leg as Australia slipped to 89 for 4. North battled hard for his one run which came in 27 balls before a beauty from Bravo dislodged the left-hander. Haddin sensing that the West Indian bowlers were gaining upper hand counter attacked putting the pressure back on the visitors as the lead grew beyond the 300 run mark. Suleiman Benn then got one to bounce and turn sharply from Haddin (23) which got the shoulder of the bat where Bravo at slip took a comfortable catch. Bravo tempted Johnson (5) with some wide ones before the left-hander had enough of it and tried to pierce the off-side field but could only slice it to Nash at backward point.


With Ponting the next man in Gayle brought in the pacy Roach to nullify Ponting effect and the bowler straightaway caused some consternation to the batsmen. His first ball was a pacy lifter which Ponting fended off awkwardly and the next ball which was predictably dug in was pulled away by the batsman for a run. Roach persisted with the short stuff and couple of balls later Ponting received another one this time directed well at his skull. Ponting, already handicapped with a sore elbow, fended it straight to Dowlin short-leg who gobbled up the catch gleefully as the Australian score read 134 for 8 though they lead by a massive 342 runs. Hauritz and debutant McKay ensured that no more damage was done before the close of play.