Lara and Ganga set up a classic Test
Contrasting centuries from Brian Lara and Daren Ganga gave West Indies a handy lead by the end of the third day at Bourda. Some more application is needed, though, as the pitch is benign and the new ball, just a few overs old, is swinging appreciably. Australia, who will have a second bite of that new ball tomorrow morning, are still slight favourites, although their fallibility in fourth-innings run-chases will be under scrutiny again.
Lara's was the innings of the day, studded with trademark whipped strokes and some savage sweeps. He took a good look at the bowling, taking 73 balls to reach 40, but then cut loose sweeping or pull-driving the spinners and sprinted past Ganga, his partner in a stand eventually worth 185. It was Lara's 19th Test century, and one of his finest, played under pressure from the match situation and the crowd, which again gave him a mixed reception when he came out to bat, because he has replaced the local hero Carl Hooper as captain.
For a while it was Trinidad v Australia, as Lara and Ganga batted through the middle session without being parted. Lara passed 2000 runs against Australia on his way to his seventh century and his fourth in successive home Tests against them. He had reached a lyrical 110, with 20 sumptuous fours, when he was out in a peculiar way. He tried to sweep the left-arm spinner Brad Hogg, but the ball looped up off his forearm and was caught by Matthew Hayden, running round from slip. The fieldsmen appealed for that, but Adam Gilchrist had noticed something even more final: Lara had lost control of his bat, which just brushed the stumps and dislodged a bail (295 for 3).
Marlon Samuels didn't last long, edging Stuart MacGill low to a diving Ricky Ponting at second slip (303 for 4). Samuels then nearly featured in an even odder dismissal than Lara's. While acting as Shivnarine Chanderpaul's runner, Samuels dozily wandered over the line as Gilchrist whipped off the bails with Chanderpaul firmly rooted in the crease. But the TV cameras were watching the batsman, not the runner at point, and the case was not proven. Chanderpaul, the first-innings centurion, lived to fight another day.
Shortly after that Ganga's long vigil came to an end after 511 minutes. Ganga had underachieved in his previous 17 Tests, making only three fifties and sometimes struggling to get the ball off the square. But today, in his first home Test, he found his feet and moved them smartly to the pitch of the ball. He happily played second fiddle to Lara, but occasionally unrolled a classic cover-drive or perky pull. He extended his maiden Test century to 113, with 19 fours and a clunking six off a MacGill long-hop, before he tired of being tied down by Lehmann and chipped to midwicket (295 for 3) a rare case of Darren bewitching Daren.
Lehmann was only bowling because the Australian attack lacking those 400-wicket men McGrath and Warne had an off day. There were more no-balls than usual 18 in all, 10 of them from Brett Lee and even the fielding was uncharacteristically leaky. Waugh had a trundle himself, despite having to leave the field for a while to have stitches in the webbing of his left hand after a misfield in the covers.
The batsman who inflicted that injury was Devon Smith, the 21-year-old Grenadian playing in his first Test. A toothy left-hander with a tendency to forget his feet-movement, Smith's aggressive 62 included a dozen meaty fours, the pick of them a perfect straight-drive that whistled back past Lee before he could react.
Smith eventually feathered Jason Gillespie to Gilchrist (110 for 2). He had put on 58 with Ganga, and earlier had dominated an opening stand of 52 with Wavell Hinds, who plodded to 7 in 55 balls before MacGill turned one across him. He was adjudged lbw by Asoka de Silva although the ball seemed to be turning a long way down the leg side. He didn't have too much to complain about, really in the first over of the day he was trapped plumb in front by Lee, but de Silva shook his head that time.
West Indies are not out of the woods yet: an early wicket or two with the new ball will expose the injured Ridley Jacobs and that oh-so-flimsy tail. But honour has been restored, and at a pretty fair lick of more than 3.5 an over. The scoring rates have been so fast in this match that it's hard to believe there are still two days to go. It all means that there should still be a result, if the weather holds.