Australia managed to come back from the dead after three days of West Indian dominance, and record a remarkable three wicket victory in fading light in the First Test in Barbados. Even with the West Indian’s using every time wasting trick in the book, while hoping for the sun to disappear quickly, Ben Hilfenhaus had the childhood dream of every cricketer, by stealing a single to win the game.
After batting for almost two days, and declaring against Australia in a first innings for the first time in nearly 60 years, the West Indians had made the running at 9-449. The inexperienced pairing of Kraigg Braithwaite and Kirk Edwards defied the Australian attack on the first day, both grafting half centuries, whilst making the attack look one dimensional. Their century partnership ended when Edwards hit one of David Warner’s part –time leg-spinners back to him, to give him a maiden test wicket.
On day two, Shiv Chanderpaul held the Australian’s at bay on a dead track, nudging his way to test century number 25. After batting for 18 hours in the last series against Australia, Chanderpaul continued his liking for the Australian attack, who again failed to dismiss him. Sammy and Bravo offered good support, allowing the West Indian’s a short, but fruitless tilt against Warner and Ed Cowan, who went to stumps on day two at 0-35.
Day three belonged to the West Indian’s again, with some help from Shane Watson. After picking up Cowan and Warner early, Watson turned a ball to fine leg, took off hard, and turned for two, stopping half way down, and sending a now stranded Ponting back, who was no chance in making his ground. This is Watson’s eight run out involvement in 33 Tests, which is a poor result for someone now in a leadership position in the side. Again, Michael Clarke and Mike Hussey had to bail the side out, and Clarke fashioned an impressive 73, before skying Bishoo to mid-off. Australia went to bed 5 down and still 201 behind.
Early day four was again good for the West Indian’s, picking up Hussey and Siddle with only two runs added to the overnight score. Matthew Wade played to the situation, making 28 off 97 balls, before falling to Fidel Edwards, leaving Australia precariously placed at 8-285. Enter Ryan Harris and Ben Hilfenhaus as an unlikely partnership with the bat instead of the ball. Harris has claims as solid lower order player, with several first class half centuries to his name, but finally showed this skill in Australian colours. Hilfenhaus combined agricultural shot making, combined with dogged Terry Alderman like defence on his way to 28. With the momentum now with Australia, Nathan Lyon came in at number 11, and struck an undefeated 40, in an unbroken 77 run stand with Harris, who ended up with a Test best 68.
Sensing there was an opportunity for Australia, Michael Clarke made a surprise declaration, with Australia 43 behind, but leaving a small window to attack before tea. And the bowlers didn’t let him down, with Hilfenhaus leading the charge to rock the West Indies exposed at 3-4. Harris continued after tea, picking up the vital wicket of Chanderpaul, who edged to Wade, making his Test debut in place of the unavailable Brad Haddin. When Bravo was dismissed in the shadows of stumps, Australia had turned the match, with the West Indian’s clinging to a 114 run lead, but with only five wickets in hand.
The last day saw the Australian’s strangle out the last five West Indian wickets, with disciplined bowling. Skipper Sammy was given a life by Nathan Lyon, who endured an unhappy match with the ball, but fortunately for Lyon and Australia, Sammy had one roll off his foot onto the stumps two runs later. Baugh and Roach scrapped hard, but when Harris picked up his third wicket, coupled with Hilfenhaus’s 4-27, Australia was chasing 192.
Again Cowan and Warner started well, before Warner edged behind off Sammy. Watson came in at three, and was trying to make amends for his first innings brain fade with Ponting. Cowan was struggling, but in reality, was playing his type of innings, which set the side up for a tilt in the last session. Watson made 52 before holing out at backward square, which opened up a small collapse for Australia. Cowan hit Deonarine to Chanderpaul at mid-wicket, before Ponting got one from the same bowler that didn’t bounce and came off the bottom of his bat to hit off-stump. Clarke followed shortly after for four, leaving Hussey and Wade to make another 52 to secure victory. This pair attacked the target in a 50 over style, running hard, and collecting boundaries against Sammy’s defensive fields. Wade cut one to deep point off Roach for 16 with 15 still needed. The light was dimming and the West Indian’s were stalling. Hussey cleared the boundary, before being bowled by Roach with three still to win. Ironically it was the first innings saviours Harris and Hilfenhaus who steered them home, to a well-earned win.
In the wash up of the game, this was more a game the West Indians lost, by giving Australia the smallest opportunity to get back into the match. West Indian cricket has gone through many changes and challenges since the glory days of the 1980’s and 1990’s. Gone are the days of the shiny, bouncy pitches and the four man pace attack, now replaced with slow and low turning pitches and two spinners bowling defensively. But what has hurt the West Indies more, is their ability to win Test Matches, where they have controlled the game, but couldn’t land the knockout blow. For the good of international cricket, we can only hope they find how to land the killer blows and climb back up the rankings.