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November 27, 2005
West Indies have unearthed a priceless allrounder on this tour while Australia's search for a capable one remains unfulfilled. Where the home side has failed with Andrew Symonds over the past two matches, the visitors have succeeded by introducing the multi-talented, energetic and heavily taped Dwayne Bravo.
Allrounders are the flavour of the year and Australia's selectors would love a top-class performer for Christmas after offering trials to Shane Watson, who was injured in the first Test, and Symonds. Despite the blinding allure of the dual-disciplined, their mistakes are highlighted, especially when they go head-to-head, and Bravo's spark has exposed Symonds' deficiencies.
Looking like a physiotherapist's nightmare, Bravo has displayed no weakness since his 113 at Hobart, an innings delivering personal confidence against a first-choice line-up and coercing team-mates into believing that they could compete. Wrapped up with tape on his left wrist, plasters on his fingers, guards on both elbows and a rotator cuff injury covered by his shirt, Bravo drove West Indies on with clever bowling until they regressed at the thought of taking a lead of more than 100 and were punished by Michael Hussey's plotting.
The fault was not Bravo's, who had silenced Matthew Hayden and Ricky Ponting on day two and added a further four wickets, including a damaging spurt of 3 for 5 in 20 deliveries before lunch. Bravo won the duel with Symonds when he threaded his bat and pad in a manner reminding locals of Greg Blewett, then forced an edge from Adam Gilchrist before picking him up with an airy drive, and threatened to explode when taking a superb caught and bowled from Shane Warne.
Two big lbw appeals greeted Warne before he chipped to Bravo and he celebrated the left-handed diving catch and his fifth wicket like he had headed the crucial World Cup qualifying goal for Trinidad and Tobago. The only surprise as he sprinted and darted was he didn't take off his shirt to reveal more strapping. It was a delightful moment of spontaneity spoiled later by his team-mates' inability to shut down the home side from 8 for 295 when Lee became Bravo's sixth wicket.
Although he spilled a chance from Hussey after his century clawed a first-innings lead of 23, Bravo has thrived under the Test pressure, but the game gives Symonds too much time to think. He is an impact player, a prototype for one-day cricket capable of breaking loose in domestic first-class matches when the bowling intensity is less suffocating.
The situation today demanded patience and Symonds submitted, shelving his shots in a bid to hold his place. It was the most difficult dilemma: back instincts and live with the consequences or hold up an end with the chance to splurge once set. He chose the sensible way but was defeated when he lost his off stump after facing 51 balls. The 9 was added to his single from Hobart and he has only one wicket from his improving medium pace.
Off-beat selection risks will be magnified for Australia when they play the fourth-ranked South Africans next month and until Watson returns they should return to a traditional make-up. West Indies have many problems but Bravo has eased one of them, and they can travel to New Zealand in February with all-round confidence.
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