Big Benn chimes with five as West Indies climb
West Indies 451 and 0 for 23 lead Australia 438 (Watson 96, Katich 80, Clarke 71, Haddin 55*, Benn 5-155) by 35 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
On a day of good old-fashioned Test cricket, a persistent Sulieman Benn and a powerful Kemar Roach dragged West Indies into an unexpectedly strong position with two days to play. Half-centuries from Michael Clarke and Brad Haddin guided Australia to within 12 of West Indies' first-innings 451 but having resumed at 0 for 174, Australia had anticipated batting out the day and building a lead from which they could push for victory.
Instead it was West Indies who finished with an advantage. They had reached 0 for 23 with Chris Gayle on 12 and Adrian Barath on 10, and although the odds of a draw have shortened, the visitors will undoubtedly have victory on their minds when they begin their charge 35 runs in front on the fourth morning. They could be helped by the potential absence of Peter Siddle, who has stiffness in his hamstring.
Progress wasn't easy for either side. The towering Benn was forced to send down 53 overs for his 5 for 155 and Roach worked hard, regularly in the 150kph region for his three wickets. Clarke reached 71 but had trouble against Roach, Michael Hussey compiled a painfully unconvincing 41 and the top-order players struggled early against Benn's turn and bounce. Haddin looked as good as any of Australia's batsmen in a confident 55 before he ran out of partners.
The star of the day was Benn, who had endured some long spells in Test cricket, including 47 overs in an innings against Australia in Bridgetown last year, but had never bowled this many. He toiled unchanged for the first three hours and was rewarded with the first five-wicket Test haul from a West Indies spinner since Gayle four and a half years ago. And he was the first specialist to achieve it since Dinanath Ramnarine nearly nine years ago.
By the time he grabbed his final wicket, Siddle caught edging to gully, Benn was understandably tired but still smiling. He had his moments of good fortune - Marcus North was caught at leg slip when he tried to sweep and the ball ran off the back of his bat - but it was Benn's drift and spin and lift that created the opportunities.
Having removed both openers with little addition to the overnight total, Benn also picked up the major wicket of Clarke with a delivery that dragged him wide outside off and his drive was snapped up at slip. Clarke had his sights set on a fourth century in five Test innings at Adelaide Oval and although he played some luscious strokes, including a cover-driven boundary off Dwayne Bravo, he was never overly comfortable against Roach.
The youngest of the West Indies fast men, Roach, 21, was still hitting the mid-140s in his final over of the day and none of Australia's batsmen played him with ease. Hussey in particular looked vulnerable and was so cumbersome that he didn't score his first four until his 115th delivery. The pressure almost led to Hussey being run-out attempting a suicidal single when he was on 24, but he was fortunate that Brendan Nash's throw from mid-off missed the stumps.
Hussey's second boundary came with a lucky top edge when he tried to withdraw from a pull against Roach. Next ball he was put out of his misery when he was late on a cut and the ball flicked the toe of his bat on the way through to Denesh Ramdin. The wicket was well deserved for Roach, who finished with 3 for 93 and shouldered much of the fast-bowling load.
He had earlier accounted for Ricky Ponting, who looked positive in reaching 36 but fell when he directed his pull straight to Bravo at midwicket. Ponting had opened his account with a punishing boundary cut square of the wicket off Benn, which added to the hurt for Shane Watson, who had just departed needing a similar four for his maiden Test century.
Watson might have had a restless night having gone to bed on 96 but was given plenty of time to catch up on his sleep during the afternoon after he went for a pull from the second delivery of the day, only to lose his middle stump. It was a long, sad walk back to the dressing room for Watson. He is not the sort of man to disguise his emotions and he hung his head in disappointment.
Benn followed soon after by turning one enough to just clip the face of the bat of Simon Katich (80) as he attempted a drive, and the ball lobbed off his leg to Barath at bat-pad. The Australians hoped that would be as close as Barath came to a bat for the rest of the day. Instead, it is now up to him and Gayle to lead West Indies' push for victory.
Brydon Coverdale is a staff writer at Cricinfo