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April 10, 2012
A pivotal unbeaten 68 and the wicket of Shivnarine Chanderpaul made this dramatic day a contender for the title of Ryan Harris' best in Test cricket. Yet Harris was in no mood to talk about himself as he focussed on completing a stirring turnaround to defeat West Indies in Bridgetown - a task that may yet be difficult for Australia's batsmen in the fourth innings on a pitch playing more tricks with every delivery.
Always a batsman of capable appearance, Harris has never quite done justice to his compact technique and considerable power. After Michael Hussey and Matthew Wade both fell with the West Indies' first-innings total still off in the distance, Harris had to play a long innings, which he went on to build in the company of a determined Nathan Lyon. Michael Clarke's declaration meant both fell short of milestones - Harris six runs shy of the top score, Lyon 10 short of 50 - but they couldn't have cared less.
"No he [Lyon] didn't care about that . All he said when we spoke about it was that he wanted to win the Test match. Those were his first words," Harris said. "He also said he hopes he plays for the next 15 years, so he should have enough time to get it.
"To score some runs was good but I'm just trying to win this Test match. We're in a good spot now. We have one more day to go. We just want to get some wickets early in the morning and win this Test match. At one stage today we thought it was probably going to peter out to a nice slow draw but that's Test cricket. This is the way it can turn around pretty quickly."
Following Harris' stand with Lyon, Ben Hilfenhaus snipped the top off West Indies' batting in three sharp overs before tea. Harris sensed the hosts were put off balance somewhat by the timing of the closure, having waited two hours either side of lunch for the final wicket to fall.
"I don't think they were expecting it [to be batting before tea]," Harris said. "[Since we were] nine down, they were probably thinking about it, but the way we were going they probably weren't sure when that would happen. So to declare and put them in straight away, it probably didn't give them a chance to get their head around batting. I think it showed, obviously, taking three or four quick wickets."
When Chanderpaul walked to the middle at the fall of the third wicket, he faced up to Australian bowlers who had recalibrated after his first innings century. Harris said the angle around the wicket had been rejected as a first plan of attack, but with significant footmarks in which to land the ball in the second innings, and little swing, it became the ideal fall-back method to cramp Chanderpaul.
"Yeah, we obviously have plans for him and to be honest, around the wicket, when we were bowling the other day we said we weren't going to do it," Harris said. "But with the ball not swinging and quite a flat wicket, there's a bit of rough outside that off stump, so that's what we wanted to aim for."
Ottis Gibson, the West Indies coach, called for patience with his side as they fell at the same third-innings hurdle that had confronted them in India last November. While not yet prepared to concede the match, Gibson admitted it would take time for the likes of Kraigg Brathwaite and Adrian Barath - both out to Hilfenhaus before tea - to be able to maintain their energy and focus for five days.
"That is the challenge and that is the continuation of where we are at the moment," Gibson said. "We have to be mindful this is a team where Brathwaite is 19, Barath is 22. It's a very young team. It's a developing team. We went to India, we were in similar situations and we didn't learn. It would seem we haven't learnt that lesson yet, but we're learning it all the time.
"We're dominating top teams but in Test cricket ... a bad hour can be the difference between winning and losing. Today we had that bad hour when Hilfenhaus bowled a great spell. We're still in there fighting and we're learning all the time. In terms of our development this is a good opportunity for us to learn and I think we've got the right guys around to help us develop."
As for the declaration, Gibson said his men had to expect it as Australia's natural posture was to attack. However he said the extra half hour before lunch, in which Harris and Lyon had batted to stretch the morning session to three hours, had sapped the hosts significantly.
"You plan for two and a half session but with the extra half an hour, guys started to flag a little bit - that probably gave them a few more runs than we expected," Gibson said.
"We toyed with the idea they might do that [declare] because we're playing against Australia and they're always frontrunners. The fact we've dominated them for three days isn't going to change the way they play their cricket. Hilfenhaus came out and bowled a great spell. [We had] some tired legs, batsmen didn't move their feet and he got a couple of wickets. [Narsingh] Deonarine and [Darren] Bravo, their 50-run partnership managed to settle everyone down and tomorrow's going to be a very interesting day."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets hereFeeds: Daniel Brettig
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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