Australia v West Indies, 1st Test, Brisbane, 3rd day November 5, 2005

The return of Matthew Hayden



Matthew Hayden is back from the wilderness with three centuries in three matches, the latest being his commanding 118 at Brisbane © Getty Images

Free of England's unrelenting pressure, Australia have returned quickly to their dominating ways and are focused on draining West Indies' spirit. The follow-on was ignored for early-series flexing and with Matthew Hayden owning one of the game's strongest squeezes there was little life remaining when bad light ended the tourists' ordeal.

Helped by an attack unable to dry the runs, Hayden showed he was definitely back with his third century in three matches to end a year of wandering. The first two relied on overcoming world-class opponents, but this was a flashback to his seasons of brutality against bowling of mediocre quality. The performance reflected Australia's uncompromising outlook that cultivated a lead of 508 with two days remaining.

On his home ground Hayden's chest was out, his front foot was forward, and his bat clubbed 118 from 163 balls. While moments of discomfort were regular for West Indies, there were few for Hayden, although he was dropped at gully on 54 and should have been run-out reaching three figures after spending 17 deliveries on 99. For the rest of his stay he was as penetrative as the barbs from the area of the Gabba's old hill.

There was much to target in the West Indies performance, which began with a meek collapse to Shane Warne and was further disrupted with misfields, spilled catches and bowling lines tangled like childhood fishing trips. Australia experienced few mix-ups and Ricky Ponting, who has played the two innings of the match, has successfully reeled his side back from the Ashes bites. His leadership mark has become a secure foothold; his batting balance was also immaculate as he raised twin centuries for the first time.

West Indies have a new coach but face the same struggles as on their last Australian Test visit that ended in a 5-0 defeat. This team arrived with more promise and energy, but it has been sapped by a unit of high-profile performers who are protecting recent promotions such as Michael Hussey and Shane Watson.

Warne's morning variations began West Indies' demise and ended with five wickets. He's difficult enough to conquer when unleashing straight balls, but today he revived big-turning wrong 'uns and heavily skidding flippers to floor a corps of confused bowlers. The nets have seen most of his experiments since coming back from a finger operation and he decided a Caribbean tail was the ideal test tube for a legspinner.

A sharply turned wrong 'un to Brian Lara on day two showed off the delivery and Fidel Edwards failed to cope with another today before Jermaine Lawson failed to notice his most famous ball. "It's been four years since the surgery and I've been working on the flipper and landing two out of five," he said. "I thought I'd try it in a game when I got to three out of five. I felt good yesterday so I thought I'd try it."

While Warne was fine-tuning, Australia's overall plan was followed to perfection. Three days into the Test series their visitors have been battered and two senior batsmen have collected easy runs by the game's standards. Two months after The Oval everything already feels back to normal.

Peter English is the Australasian editor of Cricinfo