'The West Indies chewed up valuable match time to compile their 1st innings total of 449 runs. This game has two days left, in which time they still need to dismiss us for the 1st innings. Then they need to bowl us out again in the 2nd innings and this will quite likely be after they have been back out there with their bats in hand. All of this has to be done in just 2 days where we've already seen bad light and scattered rain play a role in game delay.
It'll be a mighty tough contest for the Baggy Greens but they're
certainly not down and out.'
That is what I wrote at the close of play for day 2. I had the belief our boys could minimise the Windies lead on us, but I didn't expect this situation where we may have a chance to win this game. I don't think anyone did at stumps for day 3. If anything the draw was the primary result of prediction, but suddenly it's changed. However, the draw is still definitely on as the Windies boys can fight but I'm going to back the Baggy Greens 100%.
I have always been an optimistic supporter, always looking at the opportunities our side can take to pull things back. There's no better feeling than connecting with your team, the player's in both the good and bad times and seeing them rise above the negativity. It's a loyalty invested deep within every supporter. It's just about maintaining the belief and after watching cricket for 20 years and a bit, I realise more and more how great the game is.
Anything goes and in the Caribbean things can turn within an hour. We saw it happen...and damn it felt good even if the outcome is the dreaded draw. This game has never ending catches though so you can't get too excited.
Scorecard via ESPN Cricinfo.com
- West Indies 1st innings: 9-440 declared (153 overs)
- Australia 1st innings: 9-406 dec. (145 overs). Michael Clarke 73, Ryan Harris 68*, Michael Hussey 48, David Warner 42, Nathan Lyon 40*.
- West Indies 2nd innings: 5-71. Ben Hilfenhaus 3-17, Peter Siddle 1-11, Ryan Harris 1-14.
It was admittedly a disastrous start to the day. A massive contrast as to how the day was wrapped up. Michael Hussey, our rescue ranger, was dismissed for 48 runs. He added just 1 run to his overnight total. Then Peter Siddle was dismissed having been sent a nasty delivery by Fidel Edwards. It was probably the only dismissal in our innings where you couldn't grumble. It was just a sharp delivery with assistance from the track.
Today was a day though where the tail would wag and the Windies would pant.
Ryan Harris, take a bow champ, take a bow! Ryano came in with the Windies lead in a dominant state, even though the time they'd consumed was looking like no other result than a draw. Ryano dug deep, played with incredible discipline, focus and patience. They key behind it was self-belief. He gave our top order a few batting lessons. His defence was solid against the spin bowlers, he repeatedly forced himself to avoid flashing at a loose delivery and when the opportunity was there for him to play a shot, he did so with confident expression. He has 6 First-class centuries but this was special. It will be even better if the unexpected occurs in our favour.
His effort was built on the back of a partnership with Matt Wade, who scored 28 on debut. It was a tough initiation for Matt. He negotiated the spin bowling mighty well and it was a huge turnaround for him in comparison to the ODIs. As he began to gain confidence he was outdone by some smart Fidel Edwards bowling. A short ball, which he managed to hook away was followed up by a ball off a good length, angling away from him. He pulled out of the shot at the last second. The next ball was a touch wider but he fell for the trap, just couldn't help himself. Outside edge and gone. The curtain was closed on Matt's debut innings.
The partnership had given Australia some momentum though. Ben Hilfenhaus came out doing what he does best. A Hilfenhaus innings usually has the following: A few nudges between the slips and gully, some clumsy shots behind square leg, some crazy swipes at fast bowlers and any spin bowler who pitches it short had better hope he has a man at cow corner or deep mid-wicket.
Hilfy managed to score 24 valuable runs in a 44 run partnership with the batsman of the day, Ryan Harris.
Nathan Lyon came out soon after. I saw quite a bit of footage of Nathan Lyon batting against some produced leg spin in the nets and it came in handy today. He looked the part against Devendra Bishoo and from the moment he opened his run account with an elegant straight drive (by a tail enders standards) he looked like a man on a mission.
Sure, a few balls missed the outside edge and the Windies couldn't have really done anything drastically different. They did gave up the intimidation as soon as Darren Sammy set a more defensive field, rather than maintaining the attack and probably took Bishoo of a touch early. It was a day though where the tail would wag and both Ryan Harris and Nathan Lyon would register their highest Test scores! Their partnership amounted to 77 runs.
Ryano scored 68* unbeaten runs. It was his maiden half-century for Australia and I hope this will give him confidence for future innings. Nathan's highest score was 14 before this Test match. The scary fact is this was the highest individual total in that innings. This time he managed to be unbeaten on 40* runs. What a bloody marvelous effort from the Redback!
So proud of the boys in the lower order. That's how you do it!I really appreciate their hard fought effort. Their performance hasn't really sunk in yet. With each and every run that was cut out of the Windies lead I was edging closer and closer to my Tele. The fact they only managed a lead 43 runs in the end was truly remarkable and a sign this team is building self-belief to come back from all odds. It was also slowly but surely bogging down the Windies body language out there.
On a serious note, there's still some crucial things our batsmen need to address soon if they want to make our bowlers lives easier this series and there's still a possible second innings ahead.
Some of these issues go back to the Ashes, others stem from more recent history such as; the New Zealand Test series and some isolated issues in the Border-Gavaskar series.
Michael Clarke deserves acknowledgement for his 73 runs on day 3. Sure, he got out in a manner in which he could have avoided but he kick started his tour off well as the skipper.
He was also bold with his declaration, a decision that should be respected by the cricket tragic. It gave this game a breath of life.
The bowling, how about the bowling?
I am an outspoken supporter of Ben Hilfenhaus and I think I messed up a vocal chord as he single-handedly rolled the Windies top order with some impressive outswing bowling. The ball was swinging later, he had better pace and he managed to get his line and length on track very quickly.
The first wicket was a beauty! The little danger-man Adrian Barath was on his way with one that snuck in between bat and pad to knock down his leg stump. Ah, love that sight of the timber falling.
Soon after he departed, Kraigg Brathwaitte edged one to give Hilfy a second wicket and Matt Wade his 3rd catch. Then Kirk Edwards was dismissed LBW in Hilfy's third over to see the Windies in serious trouble at 3-4. It was the ideal start and unbelievable under the circumstances. He's given us a chance.
It did get better as the man of the day didn't take long to strike with the big wicket of Shiv Chanderpaul.
Ryan Harris managed to square him up and the edge carried to Matt Wade. What a big wicket and the Windies were four down. If you saw it happen, the feeling in the Baggy Greens camp would've instantly beamed into your living room. Sensational stuff, but there was plenty of work to do.
When Darren Bravo began to attack, after working through some
issues being stuck on the crease, he was expressive with some cracking
back foot cover drives. It gave the Windies a little bit of momentum as the lead went past the 100 run mark. Our guys kept fighting though and if we could
have the Windies 6 or 7 down by the close of play, day 5 was definitely
getting teed up for a ridiculous victory. A victory out of nowhere.
Michael Clarke opted for bowler rotation at a rapid rate as the 5th wicket partnership settled.
Well, the return of a fired up Peter Siddle did the trick as he teased Bravo to try leg glance a delivery that went down the leg side. He found the faintest edge but it just didn't carry. No worries though as his next ball lured Darren Bravo into playing a bold off drive and Matt Wade took the catch. Pedro you little beauty!
5 wickets down, lead of 110 runs. Right in it as stumps was called soon after. The big fish was gone.
The Windies had the lead heading into this innings. A lead is a lead. They fight and if you give them the self-belief they can be dangerous. That self-belief has been dented by our bowling unit with the ball...and bat. Our batsmen will need serious determination and concentration out there for the second dig. They cannot afford to fall apart. The last thing we want to see is another game where the bowlers bend their backs, have to deliver where they're not expected to (the bat) and then their efforts get flushed away through our batsmen falling down.
This wicket isn't exactly easy to adapt to now. Bishoo could easily be the go to man for Darren Sammy. It's exciting though. A game where the Windies had the lead with a result being a probable draw, at best, has suddenly changed.
What's your gut feeling fanatics? A lead of 114 with 5 wickets in hand? 1 days play remaining.
Some days I just love Test cricket.
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