Hussey and Bravo share the honours
A fascinating day of cricket ended with the third Test at the Adelaide Oval intriguingly poised. West Indies, thanks to Dwayne Bravo's six-wicket haul, threatened to run away with a sizeable first-innings lead, but Michael Hussey redressed the balance with an outstanding knock of 133 not out to give Australia a slender first-innings lead. The Australians then struck twice when West Indies batted again, but this time Ramnaresh Sarwan was around to steady the innings, scoring a delightful unbeaten 53 as West Indies ended the third day leading by 45 with eight wickets in hands.
On a day when both teams held the whip at different periods, Bravo's was a stand-out performance for West Indies in a morning session when all bowlers displayed excellent control and had 4 for 48 from 27 overs to show for it. Bravo, who had shown his prowess with the bat at Hobart, this time showed his bowling skills, nailing three of those When Australia slumped to 8 for 295, it seemed almost certain that they could concede the first-innings lead in a home Test against West Indies for the first time since Melbourne 1996.
Then Hussey came into his own, displaying the kind of temperament and attacking instinct that he showed so often during the one-day series in England earlier this year. When Stuart MacGill joined him at the crease, Hussey had only made 35, and Australia were 110 short of the West Indies' total. Slowly he went about closing in on the deficit. Before lunch, he had been all circumspect against a disciplined attack; after the break, he gradually shed his inhibitions. The fluent cover-drives came out of the closet, as did the pull and flick, as the deficit gradually decreased.
To his credit, MacGill played his part well too, defending stoutly and carving a few meaty blows of his own when the bowlers pitched it up. West Indies slowly lost ground: the fast bowlers insisted on either pitching it short or trying yorkers, while their captain continued to offer easy singles to Hussey in the hope of attacking MacGill. Neither strategy worked: the short balls were easy fodder on a flat pitch, the yorkers often misdirected, while Hussey was still able to manufacture boundaries and farm the strike. Just before tea, he smashed a superb straight-drive off the listless Daren Powell for a six over the longest part of the ground, and after the break, Edwards and Dwayne Smith got similar treatment, this time over midwicket. MacGill finally fell with Hussey on 99, but Glenn McGrath proved an able replacement. Hussey completed his hundred by smashing Hinds over mid-on, and then went on to add 40 for the last wicket to put Australia in front.
The turnaround was remarkable, considering the intensity with which West Indies took the field in the morning. Run-scoring opportunities were hardly forthcoming, and though both Hussey and Brad Hodge, the not-out batsmen overnight, got their first runs of the day with glorious cover-drives, those were rare instances when the bowlers got it wrong. Fidel Edwards had struggled on the second day, but he found his rhythm, bowling with plenty of pace and also getting appreciable reverse-swing. One such inswinging yorker, fired perfectly on off stump, did for Brad Hodge, who had batted with plenty of assurance till then for his 18.
Not only was the bowling tight, the West Indians gave almost nothing away in the field either. Their one blemish in that session was when Denesh Ramdin dropped a sitter from Adam Gilchrist when he was on nought. What could have been an extremely expensive miss cost only six runs as Chanderpaul brought off an excellent diving catch at covers to send back Gilchrist, and Bravo then outdid his captain in the fielding honours with a sprawling one-handed effort to send Warne on his way in the last over before lunch. The slide continued after the break, with Lee handing Bravo his sixth wicket, before Hussey decided to stamp his authority on the game.
Australia's late resistance meant that West Indies only had an hour and a half of batting in the day, and though Sarwan stroked a glorious half-century to lift the West Indians, there was still enough time for McGrath and Warne to nail a blow each. With Brian Lara still to come, though, West Indies had plenty of hope of conjuring a happy ending to a series which had, till the Adelaide Test, gone horribly wrong for them.
Brad Hodge lbw b Edwards 18 (4 for 238)
Trapped plumb in front by a superb inswinging yorker
Andrew Symonds b Bravo 9 (5 for 271)
Indipper sneaked in between bat and pad
Adam Gilchrist c Chanderpaul b Bravo 6 (6 for 277)
Mistimed a drive to cover, diving catch to his right
Shane Warne c & b Bravo 0 (7 for 277)
Spectacular left-handed catch off a chipped shot
Brett Lee c Ramdin b Bravo 9 (8 for 295)
Nicked one in the corridor
Stuart MacGill b Edwards 22 (9 for 388)
Beaten by a fast and straight one which sneaked between bat and pad
Glenn McGrath b Dwayne Smith 5 (all out 428)
Missed a hoick
Devon Smith c Ponting b Lee 0 (1 for 2)
Edged to second slip
Wavell Hinds st Gilchrist b Warne 15 (2 for 60)
Stepped out and beaten by the slider
S Rajesh is stats editor of Cricinfo.