April 13, 2003

Australia canter to 9-wicket win in first Test

Australia eased to a nine-wicket win shortly before tea on the fourth day of the first Test at Georgetown. An assured 78 not out from Justin Langer guided them home, but it was a devastating spell of 4 for 3 in 26 balls from Jason Gillespie which ensured the West Indies fightback ended overnight. The last five West Indian wickets fell for 17 runs inside three-quarters of an hour of the start and that was that.

West Indies began play needing to bat into the afternoon to post a target likely to test Australia on a pitch which was true, if prone to the occasional low bounce. A decent crowd had come hoping for another day of watching Australia frustrated. What they got was Gillespie at his snarling best.

With the sixth ball of the day Gillespie jagged one back into Vasbert Drakes, keeping low and trapping him on the backfoot - for once the lbw decision was straightforward. Drakes had not added to his overnight 14 (382 for 6).

With the third ball of his next over to Merv Dillon, Gillespie again got one to cut back in, again the bounce was low, and again the verdict was leg-before. Dillon had made 0, and a hobbling Ridley Jacobs limped out to join a similarly restricted Shivnarine Chanderpaul (384 for 7).

Much depended on this pair, and briefly they threatened to reprise their first-innings heroics. Then Chanderpaul's limited movement cost him dear as he nicked Gillespie to wicketkeeper Adam Gilchrist for 31 and the end was near (391 for 8).

Jacobs (11) opted to try and hit his way out of trouble, lofting Stuart MacGill over long-on for six, but the next ball, an inside edge, flew to short leg where Darren Lehmann held the catch (397 for 9).

Gillespie ended the proceedings with his third leg-before of the morning, Jermaine Lawson (0) was creasebound to a ball slanting back in at him. Gillespie had his five-for, and in 41 minutes the West Indian dream had been dashed.

Langer and Matthew Hayden started slowly and shakily, but their rustiness was not probed as once again the West Indies bowlers lacked any real bite. Whereas Langer found his touch, unleashing several brutal drives, Hayden struggled, looking a shadow of the batsman who dominated bowlers the world over in 2002. After labouring to 11 off 67 balls he finally cast off his shackles with two fours off one Lawson over, but his relief was short-lived. In Lawson's next over he top-edged an attempted pull and spooned a catch to square leg (77 for 1). Hayden's 19 was painful viewing.

But with Langer easing into something close to top gear, and Ricky Ponting finding his touch from the off, Australia strolled to victory with a calm assuredness that not even a brief light shower shortly after lunch could upset.