The big news heading into this Test was that Matt Wade made his debut in the absence of Brad Haddin.
He has become Baggy Green #428. Ricky Ponting handed him his cap. Quite special as apparently Punter was a childhood cricketing hero for Wadey. What a moment.
The Windies won the toss and elected to bat on a good pitch with little grass cover and slightly overcast conditions above. They made a reasonably good start for the day, but I don't see their position as dominating by any means. It is also safe to say that with a few catches put down did release a lot of the pressure that had been built up by our bowlers who worked very hard for the days play. Small moments of error here and there but I am sure Michael Clarke will be quick to pick up the side and intensity for day 2.
West Indies 1st innings: 3/179. David Warner 1-23, Ryan Harris 1-29, Peter Siddle 1-36.
Match scorecard via ESPN Cricinfo.com:
The Windies have shown patient application to their innings, which is a massive turnaround for them. It's positive and that focus will see them be far more competitive against our bowlers this series. Our guys will eat you alive if you try to be too aggressive and lack patience. India learnt this lesson from our rejuvenated bowling unit.
They're not in the drivers seat for the game but it was a refreshing sign from the Windies, as impatience and careless cricket has severely messed up the progression of their side.
For example; 3/167 is a scoreline the Windies would have taken any day a few years back.
Michael Clarke was the man responsible for the initial breakthrough, due to some switched on tactical execution. He made Ryan Harris bowl around the wicket and bang it in short, having just eased his on-side field placements to set a stronger, more attacking off-side field for Ryano. The short ball brought about an instinctive attack from Adrian Barath and he hauled out to Peter Siddle at deep midwicket. Was brilliant to see. As Hannibal of the A-team would say, "I love it when a plan comes together."
Kraigg Brathwaite was the anchor for the innings, while Kirk Edwards continued his brilliant show in Test cricket with a very well played half century. He did have a few lifelines and he was fortunate not to find the outside edge of his blade on a number of occasions but he still found the runs the top order needed.
He was sent packing after smacking a caught and bowled chance to David "Pitbull" Warner.
Warner's reaction time was a little less than half a second to take a screamer off his own leg spin bowling and it resulted in his maiden Test wicket. It was entertaining and exciting to see! Unexpected as well.
I must write that I found Brathwaite was interesting to watch. A young man (19 years of age) with the focus he has is unusual and something the Windies should value. It's clear he has the temperament for Test cricket. What will be needed is for him to gradually learn the art to building upon his foundation. Simon Katich, Ed Cowan and even the Windies' Shivnarine Chanderpaul come to mind as blokes who'd really take their time in building an innings. They're cautious, sometimes even to the point of complete boredom, but once they're set (strike rate around 40-60) they just kick into another gear and suddenly have the complete confidence to "express themselves" with classy shot execution into the gaps, find the boundaries with delicate stroke selection and before you know it, they've got you! Classic Test match batting.
While he is an opposition player, Brathwaite has something to offer Windies cricket. His effort will be in vain if his middle order mates stuff up. This is why it will be invaluable for him to be mentored and given the opportunities to continue with this mindset to establish himself. 57 runs off 199 balls is quite extreme but it's enough to see his line of development.
Our bowlers did a very good job in my opinion. Sure, it wasn't outstanding but they worked hard and built pressure. Up front Ryan Harris found good movement and bowled to his field.
Ben Hilfenhaus kept things exceptionally tight but the only flaw with his swing movement was that it was produced way too early - again. He did manage to rectify this with some cross seam bowling. He will be important in wrapping up the Windies tail enders along with Nathan Lyon.
Shane Watson will be a key ingredient if reverse swing is on offer for the older ball.
Peter Siddle was a bit more expensive than the other blokes in his respective spells but damn, he gave it his best shot over after over! He had some serious misfortune with catches being put down - one was a tricky return catch put down of his own bowling - and many beautiful deliveries just didn't find the outside edge of the blade. Chances put down and endless bad luck can cause fatigue in a fast bowler, but Pedro brought out that "Sid Vicious" persona and was finally rewarded with the wicket of Brathwaite. A fine edge behind and Matthew Wade had his maiden Test catch behind the stumps.
Pedro had bowled the majority of his deliveries off a good length (approximately 70%) but when he returned he started mixing it up a bit with fuller pitched deliveries. He started to force the Windies to play at his bowling. His wicket claimed was a result of asking some serious questions of the Windies batsmen, who'd shown good focus. The guy has such a big heart.
The rain did come down though not long after Shiv Chaderpaul joined a settled Darren Bravo at the crease, ultimately bringing the Windies two classiest batsmen to the middle. This partnership is a vital one to break up.
Shiv's stats for the 2008 series were as follows: 442 runs, HS 118, Average 147.33, x2 100s, x3 50s.
It's so good to see Test cricket again, especially in the Caribbean.
I am confident the boys will read the match situation far better than the Windies and try their utmost best to get in control. Too early to draw any conclusions. I'd say that it was an even par day though. The Windies haven't run away with anything yet and we've still got a bit of work to do but it's steady.
We all know how quickly the course of a game can change in the Caribbean. Therefore, this space is open for discussion! Fortunately, it would seem the drop catches haven't cost us too much at this stage and the body language has been positive.
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