May 9, 2003

Lawson grabs seven wickets as Windies rock Australians

West Indies 47 for 2 trail Australia 240 (Lawson 7-78) by 193 runs

A superb display of sustained fast bowling by Jermaine Lawson put West Indies in control on the first day of the fourth and final Test in Antigua, giving Australia their first taste of old-fashioned Caribbean aggression of the series. Batsmen ducked bouncers, the crowd sang, danced and high-fived, and, briefly, it was like the clock had been turned back a decade and a half. Australia, so dominant with the bat in the previous three matches, were bowled out inside the day for 240.


Seventh heaven: Jermaine Lawson celebrates his first wicket
Photo © Getty Images

Lawson was simply superb, and he received good support from Merv Dillon and Omari Banks. Lawson's first spells either side of lunch accounted for Matthew Hayden, Justin Langer and Darren Lehmann. He returned to polish off the tail with four wickets in 19 balls, finishing with career-best figures of 7 for 78, the best return in a Test at St John's.

The ruthless way that Lawson dissected the Australian tail evoked memories of old. Brett Lee was caught at the wicket by Ridley Jacobs for 9, desperately fending off a vicious bouncer, Stuart MacGill (2) was softened up by two short deliveries which followed him and then scooped the third to Ramnaresh Sarwan at second slip, and finally Jason Gillespie (6) deflected a body-bound bouncer down the legside where Jacobs took a diving, one-handed catch low to his left. The bully boys had been given a bloody nose.

If Lawson created the opening and completed the demolition, Dillon took the two key wickets which really put the skids under the Australian innings. After slumping to 128 for 4 midway through the afternoon, Steve Waugh and Adam Gilchrist had stopped the rot with a resolute fifth-wicket stand of 53. But in the second over after tea Dillon had Waugh caught by Jacobs for 41 - Waugh was clearly unimpressed with the decision even though there was a clearly audible nick - and then in Dillon's next over Gilchrist tried an over ambitious pull and only skyed the ball to Shivnarine Chanderpaul for 33. The back of the innings was broken, and even a spirited 34 from Andy Bichel couldn't save the day.

The initial exchanges had hardly hinted at what was to follow, even though Hayden fell early on after briefly threatening to cut loose, his run-a-ball 14 ended when, like Gilchrist, he tried to pull a ball that just wasn't there for the shot (27 for 1). Langer and Martin Love (playing for the unwell Ricky Ponting) cruised through to the brink of lunch, although Langer was a trifle fortunate to be reprieved when Chris Gayle spilt a straightforward catch at second slip off Dillon. The miss was not too expensive, Langer uncharacteristically slashing Lawson to Banks at gully for 42 in the penultimate over of the session (83 for 2).

Lawson's third came two overs after the re-start when he produced a ball which left Darren Lehmann (7) late enough to force him to follow it, and Jacobs held the easiest of catches (90 for 3).

While the fast bowlers were puffing away, Banks was bowling some excellent offspin, getting prodigious turn and bounce and troubling all the batsmen. He got only one wicket for his troubles - Love's lazy defensive prod spinning back off the pitch with interest and flicking his leg stump when he had made 36 - but had both Love and Waugh dropped at backward short leg by Chanderpaul in successive overs. For once the misses weren't too expensive.

There was still time on this pulsating day for Australia to send a chilling reminder to the jubilant crowd that they are at their most dangerous when wounded. With the second ball of the West Indies reply Glenn McGrath uprooted Gayle's middle stump (1 for 1), and then Daren Ganga gloved a leg-side long-hop from Bichel straight to Gilchrist for 6 (30 for 2). The drama lasted right through to the conclusion, Drakes, the nightwatchman, surviving two good shouts for leg-before by MacGill off the final two balls.

It was still West Indies' - and Lawson's - day, but the game remains very much in the balance. That in itself is progress for this young West Indies side after three one-sided contests.