Australia extend control of the Bourda
As was the case yesterday, Australia won two of the three sessions, ending the extended second day in complete control of the first Test at Georgetown. In the morning Justin Langer and Ricky Ponting effortlessly wiped out West Indies' first-innings total, and then after Vasbert Drakes had triggered a spirited West Indies fightback either side of tea, Adam Gilchrist and the tail snuffed out the revival. Trailing by 252, West Indies will have to bat well on a pitch which is showing signs of wear to avoid an innings defeat.
Resuming on 120 for 1, Langer and Ponting cruised past the West Indies first-innings total before lunch without ever looking anything other than in complete, untroubled control. Langer reached his hundred first, his 14th in Tests, and Ponting followed suit shortly before lunch. The West Indies bowlers huffed and puffed and Brian Lara switched them around to try and work some magic - it was all in vain. It wasn't pretty for anyone bar the partisan supporter, but it was ruthlessly clinical.
The afternoon session continued along the same lines, and so impotent was the bowling that it was a surprise when the breakthrough finally came. Ponting rather wearily tried to drive at Drakes, but only edged low to Marlon Samuels at first slip. Ponting made 117 and added 248 for the second wicket with Langer (285 for 2).
Four overs later Drakes struck again. Darren Lehmann put all his not inconsiderable bulk into smashing a short, wide delivery but substitute fielder David Bernard dived far and wide to his right at point to take a superb two-handed catch. An incredulous Lehmann departed for 6 (300 for 3).
By now Langer was tiring in the heat, and the new ball did for him when he probed off the back foot at Drakes and nicked the ball to stand-in wicketkeeper Wavell Hinds. Langer made 146, smashing 19 fours and two sixes (319 for 3).
Steve Waugh and a strangely subdued Gilchrist restored order, and the grinding down process continued through to tea. Waugh departed soon after the break for an unconvincing 25, trapped leg-before by Merv Dillon (349 for 5), and when Brad Hogg fell lbw to Pedro Collins for 3 shortly after (362 for 6) West Indies tails were up.
But their bowling was frustratingly ordinary, and it was Andy Bichel who led a seventh-wicket stand of 85 which snuffed out West Indies' embryonic recovery. When disciplined bowling was needed to prise open the tail, Lara had to watch his pace attack send down a string of half-volleys and longhops. Even the fielding disintegrated as the day wore on. It was depressing viewing.
Drakes gave West Indies a late hurrah when he had Bichel well caught by Hinds for 39 as he tried to run a ball that was too close to him down to third man. (448 for 7) A grinning Hinds hurled the ball up with relief. He was clearly struggling with his new role, and 18 byes plus a dropped catch - Langer shortly after he had reached his hundred - told its own story.
Gilchrist, who had looked more like his old gung-ho self after passing fifty, ended with the tamest of dismissals, patting a held-back half-volley straight to Jermaine Lawson when he had made 81 (473 for 8). Jason Gillespie (7) and Brett Lee (20) perished in a flurry of swipes and swings as quick runs became the priority as dusk approached.
Drakes's performance in the heat, on a featherbed, and with little effective support from the other end, was truly admirable. A latecomer to Test cricket - he only made his debut last December at the age of 33 - he alone looked threatening. It was the first five-wicket haul by a pace bowler in a Test at Bourda since 1991.
There was just time for Australia to open their attack with Stuart MacGill and Brad Hogg as Waugh tried to keep West Indies on the rack in fading light. Hinds and Devon Smith survived, Smith's youth giving him the confidence to drive and loft MacGill for three fours in an over.
Australia are buoyant, West Indies have the air of a defeated side, two of their first-innings heroes (Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Ridley Jacobs) are walking wounded, and the pitch is misbehaving. The omens are not good for West Indies.