Tough battle looms for casualties of Waugh
Having lost every first-class match on tour so far, including the First Test in Brisbane, West Indies will need something of a miracle to avoid another defeat in the Second Test against Australia here in Perth. The team is in trouble at stumps on day two, having lost two wickets in a crucial six-and-a-half-over spell in the lead-up to the close.
After Australia declared at 8/396, the tourists, at 2/16, are still 184 runs away from making the home team bat again.
Australia's dream start came courtesy of Glenn McGrath (1/6) and Brett Lee (1/10), who each snared a wicket in the short spell before the end of play. Lee, who is aiming to break the mark for the fastest Test delivery on record, enjoyed a fiery spell, dismissing opener Sherwin Campbell (4) in his very first over. The West Indian vice-captain was out to a poor shot, edging to Jason Gillespie at fourth slip. McGrath's wicket was not quite so clear cut, with replays suggesting Mervyn Dillon (3) may not have made contact with the ball before it flew behind to 'keeper Adam Gilchrist.
The Windies will resume day three with Daren Ganga (9*) and Brian Lara at the crease, with the hope that they can delay what shapes as the near-inevitable for as long as possible. For Australia though, the bowlers will come out tomorrow in the knowledge that Test cricket's longest winning streak will almost certainly be theirs as soon as they can claim the eight wickets which still stand. And that may well be the final straw that breaks these tourists here.
After McGrath ripped through the visitors yesterday with a brilliant hat-trick that also handed him his 300th Test wicket, it was Mark Waugh who starred today, notching up his eighteenth Test century.
Waugh, whose place in the team has been questioned due to a lack of form and the advent of fresh bribery allegations, answered his critics in style, bringing up his hundred in just 151 balls and providing the backbone of the Australian innings.
The thirty-five-year-old overcame a patchy beginning to display some fine form that was even reminiscent of his younger years. Some of his twelve fours came from such delicately timed strokes that he hardly looked like a man plagued by controversy and in the twilight of his career. The way he fell back and across to caress to the boundary a Courtney Walsh delivery that pitched wide of leg-stump will linger long in the memory for its seamless execution.
For Waugh, the century was satisfying, but not as a silencer to the critics, as he doesn't believe he had anything to prove.
"It was very pleasing. Obviously it's an important Test match for us and to make some runs against a West Indian attack on a bouncy Perth wicket in always satisfying. I'm happy with the way I played," he said.
"It's a game of Test match cricket so obviously there's pressure there. I was trying to be my normal self and enjoy the day."
"I thought I was going ok. I think everybody at some stage of their career goes through a form slump, so you're certainly aware that you might need a few runs the next game but this summer... You know, I averaged over forty in my last ten Tests (and) we've been winning so I didn't think the pressure was on me," he said.
Having received ample support from Gilchrist, Waugh also praised the wicketkeeper's role in the Australian total. Gilchrist, who was dropped by Marlon Black (2/72) at mid on at 43, played a typically entertaining innings, notching up his sixth Test fifty from seventy-seven balls.
However, the pair was in danger of being outdone late in the innings, with Lee (41*) and Stuart MacGill (18*) compiling an incredible forty-eight run partnership. Lee was particularly devastating, at one stage striking a four and a six from two consecutive Dillon (1/76) deliveries.
The only low point for the home team today came in the news that there is a chance that captain Steve Waugh may be forced to miss the Third Test in Adelaide. Waugh sustained a torn muscle in his left buttock in the field yesterday. Although he has participated for the entire two days here, it is likely Waugh will need to rest for a week or two before regaining full fitness. An assessment of his condition will be made at the end of the match before a final decision is taken.