January 2, 2001

West Indies paradise regained... then lost again

It was a terrific day for the West Indies at the Sydney Cricket Ground today, the start of the Fifth and Final Test against Australia. Until tea time.

After the highest opening partnership by West Indian batsmen in a Test in Australia - 147 - and a comfortable score at tea of 3/180, the West Indies fell back into the bad habits to which we have become accustomed in this series.

At stumps, after Jimmy Adams had won the toss and elected to bat on a good track, the West Indies were 9/256. The last five wickets fell within the space of 42 runs.

The prime architect of the West Indian disassembly was leg-spinner Stuart MacGill. Omitted from the Australian eleven that won in Melbourne last week, MacGill finished the day with 7/92 from 35 overs. It was SCG MacGill's third five-wicket haul in three Test innings at the ground which bears his initials, encompassing a total of nineteen wickets.

The opening stand between Sherwin Campbell (79) and Wavell Hinds (70) - promoted in place of the injured Daren Ganga - was played out in two halves, before and after the lunch interval. Before lunch it was the experienced Campbell who dominated play, scoring 49 of the 70 runs on offer, including some delightful boundaries on the off side. After lunch, it was the younger but promising Hinds who burst out of his shell with a quite dazzling array of his own shot-making around the point region.

It was the best exhibition of West Indian batting of the summer not involving one BC Lara, and came to an end when Campbell swatted a return catch to MacGill, who had first been brought on to bowl today in the eighth over of the morning. Campbell scored nine fours and faced 162 balls for his 79.

In MacGill's next over, Hinds was gone, the left-hander deceived by a big-turning off-break that bisected bat and pad. Captain Adams, self-promoted to number three - needed five runs to bring up 3000 for his Test career. In the end he limped to ten before becoming Glenn McGrath's only victim of the day.

Brian Lara (35) looked less than his most brilliant self before edging a MacGill delivery to Mark Waugh which the fieldsman took wedged between his second and third fingers. His departure, at 4/210, started the decline. Marlon Samuels (28) went later in the over, and then Ramnaresh Sarwan fell for his third duck of the series.

Ridley Jacobs (12) fell to a sharp stumping by his opposite number Adam Gilchrist, and then Nixon McLean went next ball to a ponderable lbw decision. Mahendra Nagamootoo played two confident strokes to the boundary, but these will be forgotten in an innings of 12.

Colin Stuart and Courtney Walsh, playing his final Test in Australia, were together and scoreless at the end of the day.

A crowd of almost 41,000 packed into the Sydney Cricket Ground, testimony to the popularity of a winning team despite the lop-sidedness of the series.