Report By Jon Cocks 06/05/03
On a pitch that resembled rolled, baked mud from which Jason Gillespie quipped Viagra was needed to get the ball ‘up’, Australia compiled 9 (dec) for 603 and bowled out the hosts for 328 and 284 (following on).
There was a late thrill for the home side, with Jermaine Lawson securing a hat-trick by dismissing Justin Langer LBW first ball after wickets from successive balls at the end of the Australian first innings. However, just 8 runs after tea on Day Five were needed to secure the nine-wicket victory in the Third test at Barbados.
Why Lara – suffering from a undiagnosed illness that inconvenienced him seriously on Day Two, his 34th birthday – chose to field first after winning the toss can only be attributed to a match plan that would have counted a draw as a ‘win’ of sorts.
On a famous ground with grandstands and ends named respectively for such pace luminaries as Hall, Griffiths, Marshall and Garner, the Gods of the Bouncer and the Sandshoe-crusher and the Celestial Choir of Caribbean Chin Music must have wept to see a centre square so bereft of life.
Australia was untroubled in rattling up 3-320 at 3.55 per over on Day One, given that the West Indians were fielding two debutant bowlers – paceman Tino Best and off spinner Omari Banks, the first cricketer from the tiny island of Anguilla to play Test cricket. With less than a dozen tests between them, Vasbert Drakes and Jermaine Lawson completed the inexperienced quartet.
Ricky Ponting’s authoritative 113 was his third century from successive Tests and it took sharp work in the field to do what the bowlers could not. Steve Waugh’s dour 115, his thirtieth Test century, took him past Sir Donald Bradman in the all-time Australian century-scorers’ list, but he dismissed the achievement with typical humility, commenting that he was merely a temporary caretaker of the record.
Darren Lehmann passed fifty for the third innings in a row and played the shot of the day – a crunching cover drive - not long before stumps on day One. However, he was unfortunate early on the second morning to be given out LBW for 96, to a ball that clearly pitched outside leg.
Justin Langer made a healthy 79, the beneficiary of an easy dropped caught and bowled chance to Lawson and a couple of other chances as well, including one to Sarwan at slip from the first ball of the Test. Hayden began very aggressively, but resumed his recent habit of getting out in the twenties after looking set.
The West Indian pacemen showed their inexperience, the wicketless Best spending rather too much time glaring and posturing, but neither tyro paceman caused any real problems for the batsmen. Banks performed creditably in his debut, extracting good turn and some bounce during his marathon 40-2-204-3, while Drakes (30-2-85-2) toiled admirably.
Three days of hard labour in the field for the Australians were required to earn the victory that took Steve Waugh level with Clive Lloyd for most Test victories by a captain. When Lara didn’t bat at his customary Number Four in the first innings, the task to just avoid the follow-on loomed as insurmountable.
Despite openers Chris Gayle (71) and Devon Smith (59) staying together until the close on Day Two, another 320-odd was beyond the hosts. Vice captain Ramnaresh Sarwan fought hard for his 40, but no one else could exceed 30. Brian Lara (14), struggling with illness, came in at the fall of the sixth wicket and was very unlucky to be adjudged LBW from a ball from Andy Bichel that took a big inside edge and deflected onto his pads.
Jason Gillespie (21-9-31-3) gave nothing away in an immaculate display of fast medium accuracy, hitting the stumps once and drawing catches behind twice. Stuart MacGill (39.5-8-107-4) attacked persistently, showing significant improvement in his line and length from the earlier stages of the tour.
As the pitch – criticised by Waugh as the slowest he had ever experienced – blunted the seamers’ best efforts more as the West Indian resistance continued, it took until the fourth morning to dislodge the West Indian tail, with Tino Best (20*) at least able to find some joy from his Test debut.
Waugh duly enforced the follow-on and Brett Lee – bowling fast, full and straight, removed Smith and Ganga quickly. Chris Gayle (56) and Sarwan (58) worked hard to occupy the crease in a test that was becoming a dour war of attrition, but when Lara (42) fell, West Indian hopes of putting a stop to potential series whitewash dimmed. Chanderpaul (21), Banks (32) and Baugh (18) fought it out, but to no avail.
McGrath – returning to the tour after being with his ill wife - went wicketless for just the third time in a Test, but he maintained his customary accuracy. Gilchrist even stood up to the stumps to him at one point, such was the sluggishness of the pitch.
Gillespie (28-11-37-1) was the model of accurate hostility again, Andy Bichel chipped in with the second LBW dismissal of Lara – this time a good decision – but MacGill (36-11-75-5) was the bowling mainstay, imperturbably wheeling them down, turning them sharply and picking up the Man of the Match award.
It appeared that much of the customary Caribbean verve was as drained from the occasion in direct proportion to that normally found in the Bridgetown pitch. This was not a pretty match, but it underscored the all-round ability of the Australian team, as in sealing the series victory at 3-0 it wrested back the ICC Test Championship held briefly by South Africa.