December 17, 2000

Test match hangs in balance as Australia suffers mini-collapse

West Indies has claimed four Australian wickets for just twenty-nine runs late on day three to leave the Third Test hanging in the balance at the Adelaide Oval.

Courtney Walsh (2/73), Nixon McLean (2/69), and Mervyn Dillon (2/84) each snared wickets in the final session to leave Australia at 9/409 before rain stopped play. The home team leads by twelve runs - with Damien Martyn (46*) and Glenn McGrath (1*) at the crease.

The mini-collapse began seven overs into the final session, when Ricky Ponting's fine innings came to an end an agonising eight runs short of his eighth Test century. After almost four hours, ninety-two runs, ten cracking boundaries and one life, the tourists finally removed the Australian vice-captain with a beautiful leg-cutter from Walsh. The veteran paceman had the ball nipping in towards the batsman and Ponting duly edged it behind to wicketkeeper Ridley Jacobs. This was the third time in his thirty-seven-Test career that the Tasmanian had been dismissed in the nineties.

This brought Australia's forty-first Test captain to the crease in front of an expectant audience eagerly awaiting the next chapter of this remarkable cricketer's fairy tale life. Having made eighty-one on debut and struck a match-winning 149* by the end of his fourth Test, Adam Gilchrist, as much as anyone, would have hoped for another magical innings here today.

His team was at the proverbial fork in the road - a good score from him could see it build a solid lead over the tourists and snuff them out of the game while a failure would invite an even contest, dangerous in any situation, least of all against a desperate team suddenly revived by its greatest star.

Unfortunately for Gilchrist and the Australians, the sparkling innings did not come today, McLean claiming the 29-year-old for just nine runs. Caught behind while trying to cut, Gilchrist was out for his fifth single-figure score in twelve Tests.

Spinners Stuart MacGill (6) and Colin Miller (1) also failed to make any impact, with MacGill's dismissal proving controversial. He was given out caught behind by Umpire Steve Davis; however, replays suggested the Dillon delivery may only have made contact with his helmet as he tried to evade the bouncer. Clearly unhappy with the decision, MacGill did not leave the ground immediately, and later clashed with Windies twelfth man Ramnaresh Sarwan on his way to the dressing room.

At the other end and edging towards his sixth Test half-century, Martyn could only watch on as he ran out of partners. Having returned to the Test team for the first time after his bright performance in New Zealand earlier in the year, Martyn played a composed innings as wickets tumbled around him.

The Western Australian shared in a valuable fifty-nine run partnership with Ponting earlier in the day, and brought up Australia's four hundred with a lovely lofted boundary off McLean.

In the second session, Mark Waugh's delightful innings came to an end on sixty-three when he was trapped in front by Dillon. Playing in his 111th Test match, Waugh had struck six boundaries in his stay of more than three hours. He was only one of two Australian wickets to fall in the first two sessions, after nightwatchman Jason Gillespie (4) succumbed in the fifth over of the day.