Brathwaite leads West Indies fight, but Australia on top
West Indies 6 for 207 (K Brathwaite 85, C Brathwaite 35*, Ramdin 23*) v Australia
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
For the first time in the series, West Indies batted on the opening morning of a Test. For the second time in the series, Kraigg Brathwaite fell just short of a century. And for the third time in the series, Australia went to stumps on day one on top, this time with West Indies at 6 for 207. Nathan Lyon led the attack with two wickets on a challenging day for the West Indies batsmen, who had to sit through two lengthy rain delays.
Despite the wet weather Australia had no trouble with over rates: Lyon sent down 32 and Steve O'Keefe raced through 14, meaning that only 15 were lost to the rain. Australia had opted for two specialist spinners at the SCG for the first time in ten years and the evidence on day one suggested it was a wise move, as there was plenty of turn and bounce, and between them they picked up three wickets.
As has been the case throughout the series, West Indies relied too heavily on one batsman. This time it was not Darren Bravo but Brathwaite, who was a picture of concentration in compiling 85 around meal breaks and rain delays. He had fallen for 94 in the second innings in Hobart and had the chance to push on for a hundred this time, but instead tried to dab a cut past slip off Lyon and succeeded only in gloving to Steven Smith.
It was a disappointing end for Brathwaite, who earlier had put on 91 for the second wicket with Bravo, the first time in the series West Indies had found a half-century stand between two of their top six. They came together after opener Shai Hope, in for the injured Rajendra Chandrika, edged behind for 9 off a Josh Hazlewood delivery that nipped away off the seam.
When Brathwaite and Bravo lifted West Indies to 1 for 92 at lunch it seemed the batsmen were backing up Jason Holder's decision to bat first after calling correctly at the toss. However, soon after lunch Bravo fell for 33, having added just one to his score, when he hooked a quick, short delivery from James Pattinson to Usman Khawaja, who ran in from deep square leg to take the chance low to the ground.
West Indies had lost their most in-form scorer and now had their most out-of-form batsman, Marlon Samuels, at the crease with Brathwaite. It did not end well. Samuels continued his wretched tour by contriving to run himself out, pushing a Lyon delivery straight to point and calling for a single that wasn't there; both he and Brathwaite stopped mid-pitch, Brathwaite fell over in his desperate attempt to turn around, and the throw to Samuels' end found him well short.
To add to the frustration, it turned out to be the last ball before a long rain delay. When play finally resumed, Jermaine Blackwood managed 10 before he misjudged Lyon and left a ball that turned in and kissed the very top of off stump, the type of delivery that has been an impressive part of Lyon's armoury this year. At 4 for 131, West Indies were in trouble.
It became 5 for 158 when Brathwaite departed after a second rain delay, and 6 for 159 when Jason Holder fell for 1. O'Keefe, playing the second Test of his career, claimed his first home Test wicket when Holder squirted one off the inside edge that was brilliantly snapped up at short leg by Joe Burns, who snared the ball low down in his right hand, proving that he has improved significantly under the helmet since the start of the summer.
Australia were dreaming of a quick finish as the evening grew near, but the West Indies lower order has shown some batting fight in this series, and Carlos Brathwaite was keen to rage against the dying of the light. His second ball was lofted down the ground for six off O'Keefe, and he ended up plundering two sixes and four fours off O'Keefe as he moved to an unbeaten 35 from 35 balls at stumps. Denesh Ramdin was on 23, having fought through 72 deliveries.
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @brydoncoverdale