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April 2, 2012
Australians 81 for 2 (Watson 42, Clarke 11*, Ponting 8*) v WICB President's XI 201 (Dwayne Smith 62, Harris 4-22, Beer 4-41) Scorecard
Forty years since it ravaged the pitch for a Headingley Ashes Test, Fusarium or something very much like it appeared to have afflicted the surface for Australia's tour match against the WICB President's XI at the otherwise elegant Three Ws Oval in Barbados.
The national selector John Inverarity was a participant and a spin bowling beneficiary in that infamous 1972 match, won by England on a strip supposedly left almost devoid of grass by the aforementioned fungi.
At Cave Hill he was a quizzical lunchtime pitch inspector as the tourists' Test bowlers became acquainted with the kind of grassless, slow and spinning wickets they are likely to face in the Test series that begins on Saturday at Kensington Oval.
While they did not find much in the surface to enjoy, Ryan Harris, Peter Siddle, James Pattinson and Ben Hilfenhaus all bowled with purpose as they worked their way through the President's XI, Harris nipping out a quartet of local batsmen to build his case for inclusion in the first Test team.
The hosts were rounded up for 201, leaving the visitors to reach 81 for the loss of Ed Cowan and Shane Watson by the close.
Nathan Lyon and Michael Beer initially fared less successfully despite the slow spin on offer to them, claiming a wicket each but also subject to some free hitting by Dwayne Smith, Kieran Powell and Jason Holder.
Beer's flatter trajectory appeared to pose more problems on this surface for established batsmen, and Lyon was later to sit in discussion with the coach Mickey Arthur during the tea break after his first 12 overs went for 54 runs and the wicket of Kyle Corbin. Beer rolled up the tail and finished with four wickets.
There is some intrigue surrounding the shape of the pace attack, after Harris indicated that he did not think himself part of the best XI of the moment. Such a scenario would have Pattinson, Hilfenhaus and Siddle sharing seam-up duty with Watson, but Harris' swift and straight bowling in conditions redolent of last year's Sri Lanka tour demonstrated his likely usefulness in the Caribbean.
It was Harris who cut through the invitational batting after a soporific morning session, in which 58 runs were scrapped for the loss of Devon Smith. Hilfenhaus was the most unfortunate of the bowlers, twice the victim of dropped chances that robbed him of the wickets his accuracy warranted. Powell was turfed by Watson at third slip, before Nkrumah Bonner fenced outside off stump and the edge eluded Peter Nevill, nervous in his first match as an Australian gloveman.
Harris began his incisive afternoon spell by knocking out Powell's off stump, the batsman trying to drive a full delivery that moved back at him slightly. Bonner was beaten for pace when he tried to flick to midwicket and was lbw, and next ball Harris pinned Devon Thomas with another delivery whirring in at the stumps.
Carlton Baugh averted the hat-trick but made only 6 before he cuffed Siddle onto the stumps while trying to leave a delivery of searching line, and at 72 for 6 the Australians could glimpse an early turn at the batting crease. However Smith's 103-run stand with Holder offered some spine to the local innings, forcing Michael Clarke to revert to Harris after tea. He had Smith slicing to gully where Peter Forrest held a sharp chance, and Beer then teased out the rest.
Watson and Cowan had 20 overs to negotiate before the close, the former guiding Nelon Pascal's first ball to the third man boundary, and neither batsman looked particularly troubled until Cowan proffered a leading edge to Ryan Austin's off-break and was pouched at short cover. Watson was lbw to Pascal after a sustained appeal as the shadows lengthened. Greater challenges await in the Tests, on surfaces equally parched as this one.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets hereFeeds: Daniel Brettig
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