West Indies v Australia, 1st Test, Bridgetown, 4th day April 10, 2012

A slide foretold

The fourth day in Barbados provided a reminder that Australia's Test match pedigree is far in advance of West Indies
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Bridgetown's events were foretold a week early. Australia's eight-wicket victory over the WICB President's XI in their tour match ahead of the first Test offered a tale of fitness, focus and persistence. Having limped past the local team's 201 at the Three Ws Oval, Michael Clarke's team rattled through the batting a second time around in the space of 33 overs for a measly 98.

Though the opposition was weak and the pitch poor, the Australians demonstrated the value of unrelenting efforts against opponents given to lapses in fortitude, gathering strength over the match from an indifferent start. As the sometime West Indies allrounder Dwayne Smith observed: "They're some good bowlers, they're smart, and they're strong too, but it is up to us to hang in there. We saw in our second innings where they came back a lot stronger, so those guys are seasoned players and they're all up for it and they're professionals too, so I think we need to match them."

For almost seven sessions, the West Indian team led by Darren Sammy did match Australia, grinding to a substantial first innings then putting the tourists on the rack when the time came for their reply. But Clarke's team has not won seven of 11 Test matches without rebounding from tight positions as well as gathering strength from strong ones, and his men knew the hosts are still prone to bouts of third innings apoplexy. So it was that Ryan Harris and Nathan Lyon unpicked Sammy's lock with the bat, then Ben Hilfenhaus barged through a door left ajar by his fellow bowlers' priceless tail-end stand of 77.

By the close West Indies, for all their development under Sammy and the coach Ottis Gibson, seemed only a marginally improved version of the invitational team Australia had brushed aside in the warm-up. They appeared destined to retrace the steps of the costly first Test against India in Delhi last year, among others, when a fighting performance was undone by flagging efforts against the subcontinental tail, allowing R Ashwin to make a century, the follow-on to be averted, and the West Indian second innings rounded up for all of 134. A strong platform for victory had became the trapdoor to defeat, and the Feroz Shah Kotla had to be in West Indian minds as the fourth day developed at Kensington Oval.

This all provided a reminder that Australia's Test match pedigree is far in advance of West Indies. It also demonstrated that Caribbean cricket remains afflicted by the kinds of lapses that will continue to keep the region in the unhappy gap between the mediocre and the dire until they are eradicated, by Sammy, Gibson, their players and the board. Clarke's declaration when still 43 runs behind was an exemplar of his gift for timing and tactical awareness. Yet the path by which Australia gained control of the match was a humble one, characterised less by brilliance than diligence and effort. They are qualities that can be made, not born. Gibson's men should take note.

At 285 for 8, Australia had no specialist batsmen left, a deficit of 164, and plenty of time for West Indies to establish a substantial lead and then put them back in on what would be a deteriorating pitch. Home thoughts had to be drifting towards batting again, and the appropriate pace at which to look for runs after the two first innings had rolled along at less than three runs per over. Harris, Hilfenhaus and Lyon, however, combined with batting of good sense and application. Playing strokes both bold and deft, though never daft, they dragged Australia's innings beyond 300, then 350, and finally 400, progress broken only when lunch was taken half an hour late after Harris and Lyon had seen out the obligatory extra overs as the last pair.

Harris' innings was belated proof that the strongly built fast man is also capable of playing intelligent and valuable Test match innings. Always possessing a sound technique, a lack of confidence and early jitters have generally conspired against Harris. To this point his greatest Test batting exploit was probably to be see the umpire's finger raised four times to dismiss him for a pair during the 2010 Adelaide Ashes Test - Harris having reviewed both decisions. But his defence is compact, his attacking shots powerful, and his eye sure.

Lyon and Hilfenhaus have fewer pretensions to bat "properly" in Tests, but both make the very most of what they have. Hilfenhaus hits hard and often, in a simple, muscular style befitting a former bricklayer, while Lyon shows his desperate desire to succeed for his country by watching each ball closer than most batsmen. Neither man had enjoyed a fruitful first innings with the ball, but they made up for it with their batting against an opposition that grew increasingly despondent as the overs and hours ticked by. Lyon and Harris notched their best scores in Tests, and could not have done so at a better time.

Granted three of five overs before tea in which to have an impact by Clarke, Hilfenhaus then showed he had learned from the ways of the hosts when they had bowled to Australia's batsmen. Too short and mechanical in the first innings, Hilfenhaus varied his line and his length with greater thought in the second, and was quickly rewarded. Offered a full delivery shaping away, Adrian Barath aimed a drive but lost his leg stump as the pitch grabbed the new seam ever so slightly for some movement from off to leg. Kraigg Brathwaite, having fought so admirably in the first innings, offered a swish that suggested the moment was too much for him and edged behind, then Kirk Edwards shuffled too far across and was lbw. Hilfenhaus' successes reflected nothing so much as the bowling of Sammy on day three, when he had used every trick in the fast medium bowler's bag.

Another gambit, that of bowling around the wicket, was used by Harris to dispose of the eternally pesky Shivnarine Chanderpaul, before Peter Siddle's persistence delivered the other critical wicket of Darren Bravo. Like many of his team-mates, Bravo had felt the sickening sensation of sinking in Delhi, and had seen the WICB President's XI capsize a week ago. Though reggae, rap and soul are the musical genres of choice in the Caribbean, and pop tunes have permeated Kensington Oval this week, the tune in West Indian heads at the ground might easily have been the amped up blues of Led Zeppelin, via Howlin' Wolf - How Many More Times?

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • on April 11, 2012, 20:08 GMT

    "By the close West Indies, for all their development under Sammy and the coach Ottis Gibson, seemed only a marginally improved version of the invitational team Australia had brushed aside in the warm-up. "

    If anything, there should be praise for Sammy and Gibson in terms of what they have done. After Hilditch left, Australia cricket rallied together, board, players, coach, all in unison. The West Indies are far from in unision as the board squabbles both internationally and domestically show, and with their highest profile player in Gayle out in the cold. Everyone knows the problems in WI domestic cricket. For them to come out and even compete as well as they have done considering the inexperience of the top order is commendable. Pull Chanderpaul out of that six and you have 42 Test caps between them.

  • secondopinion on April 11, 2012, 18:31 GMT

    WI threw away a match that at worst could have been a draw for them. This Australian team bowling attack is not world-beatin like when Mcgrath, (younger)Lee and Warne were at the opponents' throats all the time. Just indisciplined batting, and it seems any long WI inning in a test match must involve a certain Chanderpaul.

  • simonviller on April 11, 2012, 16:29 GMT

    Yes it may be true, that Australia has snatched defeat from the jaws of victory in the past , but WI CANNOT GO BY A WISH AND HOPE , but better aplication and more attention to details when it counts . This should be another learning experience for the guys ,hope it bears fruit this time .Do I see a couple of changes for the next test ?

  • gramedgar on April 11, 2012, 10:45 GMT

    West Indies are improving, that much is clear. They are stil vulnerable but dont be fooled into thinking they arent progressing. They will fight on day 5.

  • othello22 on April 11, 2012, 10:11 GMT

    Yeah, the Windies have gone and done it again, but let's not forget that Australia too have developed a habit in the past few years of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. They had SA on the rack in Cape Town six months or so ago with nothing left to do but plunge the sword into their chest... And then got bowled out for 47. They were phoning in a comprehensive victory over NZ in Hobart last November from an all but unassailable position and suddenly lost the plot and got bowled out... Kiwis won by 8 runs. Mohali 2010 against India was yet another amazing escape from the clutches of a certain victory... The list goes on. This test match aint over yet.

  • on April 11, 2012, 9:33 GMT

    Gayle ? Almost gayle's entire cricketing history has been one of slogging of big hitting. He is not entirely suited to the situation where a batsman is needed who is willing to graft and dig in. I was very surprised and disappointed to see that he will return to the Test team later this year. After all he has a) derided Test cricket in th not too distant past b) shown complete indiscipline as a professional e.g. criticising the need for curfew and training Do we really need this guy back in the WI side ? When he returns which of our young prospects would we be dropping ? Edwards ? Bratjhwaite ? Bharath ? Young Bravo ?

  • 1st_april on April 11, 2012, 9:14 GMT

    Michael Clarke truly showing his sun sign characteristics of being an Aries :-)

  • RandyOZ on April 11, 2012, 8:44 GMT

    Is there a better player in world cricket than MJ Clarke right now? Answer: no

  • Clyde on April 11, 2012, 8:15 GMT

    After the 'clattering' other day, this is surprisingly well written, Mr Brettig, from the correct basis of a deep immersion in play. Congratulations.

  • on April 11, 2012, 7:11 GMT

    Some really bizzare comments on cricinfo about the West Indies folding in this match. If i were a West Indies fan i'd be retaining plenty of hope, they are building a reasonable target to bowl at. If Sammy gets going for an hour the match may be once again turned on its head. If the Aussies have to chase anymore than 200 it won't be any certainty, particularly with Bishoo landing the ball in those growing footmarks. It's going to be a tough day at the office for the Aussie batsmen. Game on!

  • on April 11, 2012, 20:08 GMT

    "By the close West Indies, for all their development under Sammy and the coach Ottis Gibson, seemed only a marginally improved version of the invitational team Australia had brushed aside in the warm-up. "

    If anything, there should be praise for Sammy and Gibson in terms of what they have done. After Hilditch left, Australia cricket rallied together, board, players, coach, all in unison. The West Indies are far from in unision as the board squabbles both internationally and domestically show, and with their highest profile player in Gayle out in the cold. Everyone knows the problems in WI domestic cricket. For them to come out and even compete as well as they have done considering the inexperience of the top order is commendable. Pull Chanderpaul out of that six and you have 42 Test caps between them.

  • secondopinion on April 11, 2012, 18:31 GMT

    WI threw away a match that at worst could have been a draw for them. This Australian team bowling attack is not world-beatin like when Mcgrath, (younger)Lee and Warne were at the opponents' throats all the time. Just indisciplined batting, and it seems any long WI inning in a test match must involve a certain Chanderpaul.

  • simonviller on April 11, 2012, 16:29 GMT

    Yes it may be true, that Australia has snatched defeat from the jaws of victory in the past , but WI CANNOT GO BY A WISH AND HOPE , but better aplication and more attention to details when it counts . This should be another learning experience for the guys ,hope it bears fruit this time .Do I see a couple of changes for the next test ?

  • gramedgar on April 11, 2012, 10:45 GMT

    West Indies are improving, that much is clear. They are stil vulnerable but dont be fooled into thinking they arent progressing. They will fight on day 5.

  • othello22 on April 11, 2012, 10:11 GMT

    Yeah, the Windies have gone and done it again, but let's not forget that Australia too have developed a habit in the past few years of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. They had SA on the rack in Cape Town six months or so ago with nothing left to do but plunge the sword into their chest... And then got bowled out for 47. They were phoning in a comprehensive victory over NZ in Hobart last November from an all but unassailable position and suddenly lost the plot and got bowled out... Kiwis won by 8 runs. Mohali 2010 against India was yet another amazing escape from the clutches of a certain victory... The list goes on. This test match aint over yet.

  • on April 11, 2012, 9:33 GMT

    Gayle ? Almost gayle's entire cricketing history has been one of slogging of big hitting. He is not entirely suited to the situation where a batsman is needed who is willing to graft and dig in. I was very surprised and disappointed to see that he will return to the Test team later this year. After all he has a) derided Test cricket in th not too distant past b) shown complete indiscipline as a professional e.g. criticising the need for curfew and training Do we really need this guy back in the WI side ? When he returns which of our young prospects would we be dropping ? Edwards ? Bratjhwaite ? Bharath ? Young Bravo ?

  • 1st_april on April 11, 2012, 9:14 GMT

    Michael Clarke truly showing his sun sign characteristics of being an Aries :-)

  • RandyOZ on April 11, 2012, 8:44 GMT

    Is there a better player in world cricket than MJ Clarke right now? Answer: no

  • Clyde on April 11, 2012, 8:15 GMT

    After the 'clattering' other day, this is surprisingly well written, Mr Brettig, from the correct basis of a deep immersion in play. Congratulations.

  • on April 11, 2012, 7:11 GMT

    Some really bizzare comments on cricinfo about the West Indies folding in this match. If i were a West Indies fan i'd be retaining plenty of hope, they are building a reasonable target to bowl at. If Sammy gets going for an hour the match may be once again turned on its head. If the Aussies have to chase anymore than 200 it won't be any certainty, particularly with Bishoo landing the ball in those growing footmarks. It's going to be a tough day at the office for the Aussie batsmen. Game on!

  • Longmemory on April 11, 2012, 6:03 GMT

    Any other captain out there would have allowed his last pair to bat as long as possible and close the deficit as much as possible - even perhaps hoping for a slender lead. Clarke has shown his mettle by declaring just before tea and grabbing those 3 wickets. In psychological terms, its turned this match on its head. Give the guy credit - in a time where every captain is so pathetically defensive and cautious, this is daring and brilliant.

  • on April 11, 2012, 3:12 GMT

    The tail has wagged furiously. The Aussies have been bailed out. Shame WI couldn't finish them off, don't get too carried away with the scoreline, you haven't bowled them out yet, in fact WI failed to bowl them out prompting Clarke to declare. 1st hour of tomorrow is crucial unless we see another WI collapse coming just like what happened in India. They must learn how to build an innings, pity there is no Gayle. It's only the first test. This series could be anyone's just like the limited overs series that was shared.

  • jmcilhinney on April 11, 2012, 2:52 GMT

    This is a fine example of why 5-day cricket is the ultimate test and so-named. Australia looked fairly well-placed against SA and collapsed for 47. England looked relatively good against Pakistan and collapsed for 72. WI looked fairly good here and now will struggle to save the game. Even being great for a few days isn't enough. You have to be good enough for the whole 5 days. This game may yet hold more surprises too. Long live Test cricket.

  • on April 11, 2012, 2:21 GMT

    this was all expected , watching the west indies batting in the first inning and making 450 was to good to be true. just had the feeling it was coming. i think barath is overrated the guy only has 1 century in what 11 test now seroiusly i dont know where this team is headed. i feel sorry for dem when they tour england in those seaming condition at this time of the year.

  • Massive_Allan_Border_Fan on April 11, 2012, 1:18 GMT

    As an Aussie, it was certainly a great day for our guys, but the last few years have certainly taught me not to get ahead of anything in this wonderful game of ours. Day 5 is wide open. An Australian win, a Windies win, a draw or even a tie are all possibilities. Does anyone know the weather forecast for Barbados?

  • Buggsy on April 11, 2012, 0:41 GMT

    So the Calypso Collapso strikes again. Come on West Indies, you can do better than this.

  • rama_krish on April 11, 2012, 0:33 GMT

    It is a weakness in WI cricket teams in this recent past that they lose enthusiasm for the game whenever they either have a lead over the opposing team. This lack of a "killer instinct" was displayed again today at Kensington Oval and it has left the game open to won by the Aussies. Expect WI to fold before lunch tomorrow and the Aussies to win in a canter.

  • simonviller on April 10, 2012, 23:04 GMT

    They have done it again ! Australians are a more together team in every department of the game , they play cricket the way it should be played ,with a lot of thought and determination . We had Australia in a similar situation yesterday ,but what did our seamers do ; wasted the new ball with no sucess of gaining a wicket .Today Australian bowlers forced us to play at the ball ,hence the results . I wish W.I well ,but we need greater depth in bowling and more discipline in batting, if we are to change our rankings . Five bowlers are not enough when the going gets tough ,Australia has eight and eleven batsmen . I think Clarke sense that we were too tired and worn down to bowl Australia out even tomorrow ,were we able to post a good total .

  • on April 10, 2012, 23:00 GMT

    If Wi can get a lead of 220 - 235 it maybe a challange for the Aussies on a 5th day wicket...

  • on April 10, 2012, 22:56 GMT

    Same old same old!!! All this hype about improvement and team bonding........nothing has changed! On their day some WI players are capable of producing some great performances as any cricketer or cricket team would but it takes more than just your day. It has to be something that is done day in day out. And what about team composition? Any test team needs four strong bowlers and at least three consistent batsmen. What does the WI have? I smiled when I heard the accolades up to yesterday and again I am reminded.....One Swallow does not make a summer! I wish them well!

  • Harry_Kool on April 10, 2012, 22:44 GMT

    The main difference between Windies innings? Catches were held and Chanderpaul was dismissed early. Good effort from the Aussie lower order who, although possessing less tlaent with the bat, played far more responsibly than their top order. An intirguing last day coming up.

  • mikey76 on April 10, 2012, 22:36 GMT

    A good declaration by Clarke, he is very much in the same vein as Michael Vaughan, an attacking intuative captain and it seems to have paid off here. The aussies might rue the lack of a top class spinner, and the West Indies will wonder how they didn't polish off the tail sooner. I'd back the aussies to force a win tomorrow evening.

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  • mikey76 on April 10, 2012, 22:36 GMT

    A good declaration by Clarke, he is very much in the same vein as Michael Vaughan, an attacking intuative captain and it seems to have paid off here. The aussies might rue the lack of a top class spinner, and the West Indies will wonder how they didn't polish off the tail sooner. I'd back the aussies to force a win tomorrow evening.

  • Harry_Kool on April 10, 2012, 22:44 GMT

    The main difference between Windies innings? Catches were held and Chanderpaul was dismissed early. Good effort from the Aussie lower order who, although possessing less tlaent with the bat, played far more responsibly than their top order. An intirguing last day coming up.

  • on April 10, 2012, 22:56 GMT

    Same old same old!!! All this hype about improvement and team bonding........nothing has changed! On their day some WI players are capable of producing some great performances as any cricketer or cricket team would but it takes more than just your day. It has to be something that is done day in day out. And what about team composition? Any test team needs four strong bowlers and at least three consistent batsmen. What does the WI have? I smiled when I heard the accolades up to yesterday and again I am reminded.....One Swallow does not make a summer! I wish them well!

  • on April 10, 2012, 23:00 GMT

    If Wi can get a lead of 220 - 235 it maybe a challange for the Aussies on a 5th day wicket...

  • simonviller on April 10, 2012, 23:04 GMT

    They have done it again ! Australians are a more together team in every department of the game , they play cricket the way it should be played ,with a lot of thought and determination . We had Australia in a similar situation yesterday ,but what did our seamers do ; wasted the new ball with no sucess of gaining a wicket .Today Australian bowlers forced us to play at the ball ,hence the results . I wish W.I well ,but we need greater depth in bowling and more discipline in batting, if we are to change our rankings . Five bowlers are not enough when the going gets tough ,Australia has eight and eleven batsmen . I think Clarke sense that we were too tired and worn down to bowl Australia out even tomorrow ,were we able to post a good total .

  • rama_krish on April 11, 2012, 0:33 GMT

    It is a weakness in WI cricket teams in this recent past that they lose enthusiasm for the game whenever they either have a lead over the opposing team. This lack of a "killer instinct" was displayed again today at Kensington Oval and it has left the game open to won by the Aussies. Expect WI to fold before lunch tomorrow and the Aussies to win in a canter.

  • Buggsy on April 11, 2012, 0:41 GMT

    So the Calypso Collapso strikes again. Come on West Indies, you can do better than this.

  • Massive_Allan_Border_Fan on April 11, 2012, 1:18 GMT

    As an Aussie, it was certainly a great day for our guys, but the last few years have certainly taught me not to get ahead of anything in this wonderful game of ours. Day 5 is wide open. An Australian win, a Windies win, a draw or even a tie are all possibilities. Does anyone know the weather forecast for Barbados?

  • on April 11, 2012, 2:21 GMT

    this was all expected , watching the west indies batting in the first inning and making 450 was to good to be true. just had the feeling it was coming. i think barath is overrated the guy only has 1 century in what 11 test now seroiusly i dont know where this team is headed. i feel sorry for dem when they tour england in those seaming condition at this time of the year.

  • jmcilhinney on April 11, 2012, 2:52 GMT

    This is a fine example of why 5-day cricket is the ultimate test and so-named. Australia looked fairly well-placed against SA and collapsed for 47. England looked relatively good against Pakistan and collapsed for 72. WI looked fairly good here and now will struggle to save the game. Even being great for a few days isn't enough. You have to be good enough for the whole 5 days. This game may yet hold more surprises too. Long live Test cricket.