West Indies struggle to stay afloat
Chris Gayle flickered but the West Indies' spark was on the verge of being extinguished as the Australians started to run away with the first Test. On a two-paced second day the hosts worked solemnly to arrive at 8 for 480 until the declaration half an hour before tea, when the match took off, and after an eventful afternoon the limping visitors were 5 for 134.
West Indies began their reply in stunning fashion when Gayle exploded in the six overs ahead of the break, but the hope of a sustained fight evaporated in a frenetic hour when the visitors lost four wickets. Travis Dowlin, who is playing his third Test, was the man in charge of the recovery with 40 and needs a couple of days' worth of help to delay the hosts.
Gayle arrived in Brisbane from Jamaica the day before the game and accelerated like a plane on the runway as he blasted Ben Hilfenhaus for three early fours in front of point. After the easy pace of the Australians, Gayle held the crowd's interest and was such a worry for Ricky Ponting that he removed a third slip and put a man on the boundary instead.
The concern didn't last long for Ponting and Gayle's departure on 31 to an obvious lbw - he was hit on the back pad by Hilfenhaus but resisted by calling for an unnecessary review - started a horrible period for West Indies. Adrian Barath, the 19-year-old debutant, had been caught behind off a no-ball and moved to 15 when he drove at Mitchell Johnson and was taken by Shane Watson at second slip.
Touring batsmen always struggle with the extra bounce on offer at the Gabba and the slips cordon was expecting a lot of work. Dowlin was 7 when he gave Ponting a chance that the captain spilled at second slip. He was so annoyed he sat on the ground reliving the drop. Australia are playing their first Test since the Ashes defeat and Ponting is desperate to avoid the types of donations that boosted England.
Dowlin held on to stumps with Denesh Ramdin, who was 20, but there were enough wickets falling at the other end to cheer up Ponting. While Gayle scares the Australians, Shivnarine Chanderpaul has been a major obstacle with his long-lasting innings against them, but he didn't stay long before going lbw to Peter Siddle. Like Gayle, he called for the third umpire and both of West Indies' challenges had been used up by the 15th over.
Watson scooped his second edge to send back Dwayne Bravo for 0 after he was given out by the replays, this time for an umpire's referral. Asad Rauf's raised finger left the visitors in severe trouble at 4 for 63 and gave Johnson his second breakthrough. At this point the Australians were feeling as comfortable as they have here since their last defeat at the ground in 1988-89.
Brendan Nash, on his return to his old home ground, counter-attacked with a couple of cuts and pushes off the back foot, which looked attractive but soon led to his downfall. Watson gained some extra bounce at the end of his five-over spell and Nash leaned back to cut, edging to Brad Haddin.
Australia's batsmen had stuck to a cautious method as they resumed at 5 for 322 and built on their total through half-centuries to Marcus North and Nathan Hauritz. North was patient throughout his display and was annoyed when he lapsed against the tireless Bravo, who led the attack in Jerome Taylor's absence with a hip injury and collected 3 for 118. What West Indies didn't need after picking up Haddin (38) and Mitchell Johnson (7) in the first session was Hauritz to produce his maiden fifty.
While North was careful in his 79 off 157 balls, Hauritz was happy to play his shots and peaked with a couple of pulls in an over from Bravo. Hauritz, who was dropped on 5, is appearing in his first game at the Gabba since he was a Queensland representative and his 50 not out gave him a boost on a ground that hasn't been friendly to his offspin.
North was happy to nudge, leave and defend, and perked up with a crunching straight drive off Kemar Roach for four in the same over he was struck on the arm by a nasty short ball. It was hard work for North, who added 27 in the first session and was hit again on the arm by Bravo after lunch. He swung his bat in frustration at being tricked into following a wider ball from Bravo and Ramdin took a smart catch lunging to his left.
The under-manned attack forced North into his cautious mode but there were not too many highlights for the bowlers over the first two days. While Roach remained slippery throughout, Ravi Rampaul picked up his first Test wicket and Sulieman Benn was tidy, the hosts still proceeded to an intimidating total. Already it is the tourists' game to save.
Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo