April 13, 2003

Aussies go one-up at Guyana

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The West Indian revival in the first Cable & Wireless Test, so encouragingly mounted by Brian Lara, Daren Ganga and Devon Smith on Saturday, unravelled within the first hour of the fourth day yesterday to the familiar accompaniment of tumbling lower order wickets.

The match that was back on even terms when Lara and Ganga were engaged in their third-wicket partnership of 185 almost 24 hours earlier, was over half-hour before tea in a comprehensive Australian victory by nine wickets.

The optimism that a n overnight lead of 129, with five wickets remaining, could be extended to offer Australia a genuine challenge did not take into account three relevant factors.

The first was that the two, true remaining batsmen, Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Ridley Jacobs, were both as immobilised by their first innings leg injuries as an IRA knee-capping victim.

The second was that those filling the nine, ten, jack positions were a latent hat-trick. The third was the presence in the opposition ranks of Jason Gillespie, one of the contemporary game? finest fast bowlers.

The combination created the kind of late order meltdown that has become commonplace as 381 for five was rapidly transformed into 398. The last five wickets managed 17 runs and left Australia a token 147 to take the lead in the series.

On a still unblemished pitch, whose only unkind characteristic was the occasional low ball, and against bowling that lacked inspiration and penetration, they duly made light work of the task.

Matthew Hayden, taken at mid-wicket from a miscued hook off Jermaine Lawson for 19, was their only setback.

The two first innings century-makers, Justin Langer, Hayden? left-handed partner, and Ricky Pointing were unbeaten at the end. Langer followed his 146 with 78 to claim th e Man-Of-the-Match award. Ponting added 42 to his 117.

Langer escaped an awkward, skied catch to cover by substitute David Bernard off Marlon Samuels?off-spin at 46 but it would have made no difference either to the outcome or his award.

The result wa s a foregone conclusion once Gillespie had completed his efficient morning? work.

Observing the simple but effective method of bowling at the stumps, the South Australian claimed four of the five wickets, three with lbw decisions, for final figures of five for 39 from 20.2 overs.

It was the same method used by Vasbert Drakes in his five-wicket return for the West Indies. Not since 1988 had a fast bowler taken as many as half the wickets in an innings in a Bourda Test. Now two have done it in the same match.

Gillespie wasted no time in sweeping away the West Indies?residue. It was simply a matter of bowling straight to batsmen who kept missing.

He pinned Drakes on the backfoot with the sixth ball of the morning that skidded through low for a clear lbw decision, even from umpire Asoka deSilva who found it difficult to correctly identify them throughout the match.

Gillespie won a similar verdict from deSilva with the third ball of his next over, completing Merv Dillon? 24th duck in Tests, and insti gating the rare sight of runners for both hobbling batsmen, Marlon Samuels for Chanderpaul and Wavell Hinds for Jacobs.

There was no time for the anticipated confusion as Chanderpaul soon offered a flat-footed push and edged a wicket-keeper? catch for G illespie? 150th Test wicket.

Leg-spinner Stuart MacGill broke the sequence of Gillespie wickets by dismissing Jacobs to a sharp catch at short-leg by Lehmann, the ball after Jacobs had lifted him for six over long-on.

Jacobs could hardly keep his feet, so damaged is the left groin muscle he tore when batting on the first day. It will keep him out of the second Test, starting at the Queen? Park Oval on Saturday, the wicket-keeper? first time he will miss a Test through injury since belatedly coming int o Test cricket on his 31st birthday four years ago.

Gillespie rounded off things with his fifth wicket, another lbw decision against Jermaine Lawson, and was immediately mobbed by his jubilant teammates as he showed the ball above his head in the manner the Australians have adopted for marking such feats.

It was a disheartening decline by the West Indies but not unusual. Eight times in 14 Tests in 2002, the last five wickets went for less than 30. There has been no change in the first of 2003.