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Toss: West Indies.
The Australians had a suspicion of trouble when they went looking for the pitch and could barely pick it out from the rest of the gumleaf-green square. It was covered by grass nearly an inch long, suspiciously damp and given only a token shave. Even the winning captain, Richardson, agreed it was unsatisfactory. Fast bowlers looked at it and grinned like fat men about to tackle Christmas dinner. It simply had to be their match, and it was. Ambrose, who had taken three wickets in two Tests, bounced back with nine for 65 on the site where he demolished England a year earlier, while McGrath ripped out six.
Only Steve Waugh reached 50; his unbeaten 63 on this pitch was as admirable as his 200 in the next Test. In Australia's first innings, no one else bettered Boon's 18 and they lost nine wickets to outside edges. West Indies had similar problems. "When the ball seams like that, it does not matter whether you are Brian Lara or Don Bradman; you are not going to get runs consistently," said Australian coach Bob Simpson.
Rain, which cut the first day to 40 overs, hardly helped. Sent in, Australia lost Taylor and Slater with only two on the board, Mark Waugh, a debonair strokemaker under the most trying conditions, managed only two singles in 25 minutes before he tickled behind. When Boon edged to slip at 37, Australia seemed no certainty to make three figures. But by then Steve Waugh had entered the front line. He stood his ground like John Wayne when Ambrose engaged him in a verbal exchange of fire from two metres; the bowler had to be tugged away by Richardson. "It's Test cricket," the unrepentant Waugh said afterwards. "If you want an easy game, go play netball." Waugh suspected anything approaching 150 would prove competitive and even 128 looked reasonable as McGrath scythed down the West Indians for 136. He did more than let the pitch work for him: he swung the old ball and some of his team-mates rated the out-swinging Yorker which Lara edged to slip the ball of the series.
Australia kept the deficit down to eight and their openers inched ahead on the second evening, but seizing the initiative proved beyond them. In the morning, the upper order struggled to 85 for three, then the last seven departed for 20, four to Ambrose, in a miserable procession that was not entirely the fault of the pitch. West Indies' target of 98 was small enough to clear in one hay-making assault. Richardson and Williams lashed out and Lara delighted his home crowd with the spectacular punchline, a six off Warne in the 21st over, to square the series and restore their confidence for the decider in Kingston. The match took less than 164 overs and, but for rain, might have finished earlier than tea on the third day.
Man of the Match: C. E. L. Ambrose.
Close of play: First day, Australia 112-7 (S. R. Waugh 54*, P. R. Reiffel 6*); Second day, Australia 20-0 (M. J. Slater 11*, M. A. Taylor 9*).
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