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Australia v West Indies, 1st Test, Brisbane, 4th day

Supporting cast comes to the fore

The Verdict by Peter English at the Gabba

November 6, 2005

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Nathan Bracken came to the party on day four to represent Australia's support staff © Getty Images
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The one glaring omission from Australia's performance over the first three days was the lack of productivity from beneath the top rung. Ricky Ponting had stroked twin centuries, Matthew Hayden showed his revamped powers and Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath combined for nine first-innings wickets. Nothing of substance had come from players pushing for their positions. That changed today.

Many things pleased Ricky Ponting during the Test and there was also relief that the bowling support staff made a distinct impression in splitting West Indies' top order before swinging through the rest. Never before have Australia dismantled the opposition so comfortably - West Indies lost 8 for 44 and were allout for 129 - with neither Warne nor McGrath grabbing a wicket. After luring five victims in the first innings, Warne was expecting to deliver most of the trouble, but he was given only two overs as Brett Lee and Nathan Bracken stole the blond highlights.

The New South Wales team-mates shared heavy and joyous hugs at the fall of wickets as Lee collected five victims and Bracken four. Heavy cloud draped the Gabba for most of the day and overcast Brisbane conditions have a way of provoking something spectacular from the often bland Bracken.

He delivered the Pura Cup for New South Wales in March with a six-wicket haul on the opening day and this time he fulfilled his pre-game wish to secure the place as first-choice seam back-up behind Lee and McGrath. Stuart MacGill will become a serious contender for the remaining matches in Hobart and Adelaide and the shoulder injury to Shane Watson, who pushed in to dismiss Chris Gayle, may also create a vacancy, but Australia now know they have a contributor who can mix the economy of his first innings with the more destructive display of the second.

Moving the ball late and sharply, Bracken confused the batsmen as much as Warne did on day three, and created a dropped chance off Brian Lara before sealing his most memorable dismissal with assistance from Matthew Hayden in the gully. Shivnarine Chanderpaul had reason to complain about the height of his lbw decision, but there was no doubt when Bracken cracked the back foot of Daren Powell and knocked into Fidel Edwards' stumps to set up a missed hat-trick attempt.

At the other end Lee was sparkling in the gloom and closed out the 379-run victory just as rain started to fall. He started the procession by removing Devon Smith, showed his fire with a steepling short ball Ramnaresh Sarwan fended to Adam Gilchrist and swept to his first five-wicket haul in four years. When he bowled Jermaine Lawson the Australians began a loud celebration that continued into the dressing-rooms and was heard through the walls as Chanderpaul conducted his end-of-match conference.

Chanderpaul had nothing to toast and his side must focus on more crease occupation from the established and youthful players to make this series a contest. Australia's top guns ensured they played well until the recruits established position today, but apart from the second session on the first day they faced little meaningful resistance.

Peter English is the Australasian editor of Cricinfo

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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