2nd Test, Melbourne

Australia v West Indies, 2015-16


Nathan Lyon attempts a diving catch of his own bowling, Australia v West Indies, 2nd Test, Melbourne, 2nd day, December 27, 2015
Nathan Lyon attempts a diving catch of his own bowling © Getty Images
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At Melbourne, December 26-29, 2015. Australia won by 177 runs. Toss: West Indies. Test debut: C. R. Brathwaite.
All the talk on the eve of the Boxing Day Test was how long it would take Australia to go 2-0 up. Some even considered bringing forward their travel plans for the New Year On a damp first morning, the covers had been peeled back to reveal a pitch green enough to persuade Holder to bowl - or perhaps he was shielding his fragile batsmen. In any case, it didn't take long for Australia to pick up the tune of the First Test, as Warner struck five of his first eight deliveries, from Roach and Taylor, for four: Merry Christmas! He holed out soon after, but the point had been made.

Khawaja, returning from a hamstring tear, and Burns, preferred to the unlucky Shaun Marsh, each had plenty to play for, and neither hurried. A rhythm more in keeping with Test cricket prevailed until lunch. In the afternoon, both batsmen shifted gears with limited risk, going toe to toe as they went to their fifties and beyond. A thrash past point brought Burns his second Test hundred. The first had come at Brisbane in November, when he had walked out to bat in the second innings with Australia miles in front. This was different: a quintessential day-one opener's hand, where you earn your keep.

Two balls later, Khawaja reached his third century in his last three Tests - and the 1,000th scored for Australia in all internationals (England were next, on 964, followed by India, on 688). If the two against New Zealand had been defined by how hard he hit the ball, this was the result of exploiting the MCG's vast expanses to scamper between the wickets, with no sign of the hamstring injury; just 30 of his 144 came in boundaries. Both men fell to tired shots after a long day of graft, but their stand of 258 left Australia impregnable at the close, which was taken at 345 for three.

Resuming on the second day, Smith was desperate to join in the run-fest after missing out at Hobart, while Voges was too savvy to pass up an opportunity against shrunken bowlers. Like Khawaja, Smith found the gaps and ran breathlessly; Voges cut and flicked any time the bowlers mislaid their length, passing 1,000 Test runs in just 18 innings; before him, only Australia's Mark Taylor (1,219 in 1989) and England's Alastair Cook (1,013 in 2006) had reached the mark in their first calendar year in Test cricket. Smith's sixth century in 2015, and his fifth in eight Tests as captain, meant he would finish the year with more runs (1,474) than anyone. Voges joined him on three figures - making it four hundreds from the top five for only the third time in a Test innings - with a trademark clip past mid-on, after which Australia declared at 551 for three. It took his average against West Indies to a ridiculous 542, the highest for any player against any team, beating South African Jacques Rudolph's 293 against Bangladesh.

It felt like Hobart all over again. As before, Lyon's early introduction was the catalyst for another batting debacle, after he had Kraigg Brathwaite caught at short leg. Pattinson's reverse swing was too much for Chandrika and Samuels, while the you-miss-I-hit approach of Siddle accounted for Holder first ball. At stumps, West Indies were 91 for six. Once more Bravo was watching it all unfold from the other end. Finally, on the third day, he received help in the big, determined shape of Barbadian debutant Carlos Brathwaite. Twice Pattinson dismissed him with no-balls, but a half-century was appropriate recognition for his toil. Not for the first time, the West Indies tail fared better than the frontline batsmen, offering admirable support to Bravo, who was last to fall for 81, having faced 204 balls in a shade over six hours.

Khawaja and Smith enjoyed a game of target practice for a session before Australia declared for the third innings in succession, setting West Indies 60 to win or, more to the point, two days to survive. Chandrika embodied a more committed effort with an innings of two and three-quarter hours that could be his making. Every other specialist got a start but none progressed, as West Indies slipped to 150 for five. There followed a spirited stand of 100 between Holder and Ramdin, his predecessor as captain, and for a moment it seemed possible Australia would be deprived of their day off. It was not to be. Mitchell Marsh, who had barely featured in the series until now, bowled with genuine pace to dismiss both en route to a Test-best four for 61, as the tail fell in a flurry. For the 11th time in a row, the Frank Worrell Trophy was Australia's. As for West Indies, Trinidadian commentator Fazeer Mohammed lamented that it might be their last appearance at the Boxing Day Test for a long time. Sadly, he was almost certainly correct.
Man of the Match: N. M. Lyon.

© John Wisden & Co