At Melbourne, December 26, 27, 28. West Indies won by six wickets. Toss: Australia.
This Test so completely reversed the newly established order that even the aftermath came first. Australia, leading 2-0, made the sort of sweeping changes that losing teams make and then lost badly, West Indies, hitherto a rabble, made one minor change, as if they were on a winning streak, and so began one that not only accounted for Australia here, but beat them to a place in the one-day finals as well.
Australia lost Elliott because of injury and welcomed back Steve Waugh; they also dropped Ponting, Bevan and Kasprowicz, replacing them with left-handers Langer and Hayden, both playing their first Tests since 1994, and Reiffel. West Indies merely changed wicket-keepers.
Ambrose, enlivened by as difficult a batting pitch as Taylor could remember at Melbourne, promised his team ten wickets and had the first three within an hour, before most of the 72,000 crowd - the biggest at an MCG Test for 21 years - had taken their seats. Langer had retorted with a six off Bishop, but his hesitation and run-out left Australia 27 for four. Steve Waugh, Blewett and Healy fought their way out of the corner, adding 168 for the next two wickets, and were well-bruised for their trouble. But the tail was shot out and they finished at 219.
McGrath matched Ambrose wicket for wicket and glare for glare the next day, despite the bankable resistance of Chanderpaul, who was promoted over Lara to No. 3. He made his 11th fifty in 21 Test innings, but again failed to convert it to a century. Lara, eased down to No. 4, where he stayed for the remaining Tests, waited 22 minutes to break his duck, but found patience no more of a virtue than his urgency in Sydney; he was out four balls later for two and, when Chanderpaul fell, West Indies were teetering at 107 for five.
But Gillespie had broken down with a side strain, and Adams and Murray added 90 for the sixth wicket, Murray swinging freely for as fluent a fifty as any in the series, and Adams patiently batting four hours for an unbeaten 74. West Indies were eight down when they took the lead, but some atypical obduracy from their tail stretched it to 36.
Australia spent three wickets recovering those runs, Ambrose claiming Hayden and Langer for ducks. Walsh chimed in, dismissing Taylor, Mark Waugh and Blewett, West Indies' fielding was for once brilliant and, in less than four hours, Australia were all out for 122. Only Steve Waugh, last out for 37, displayed any fortitude. Ambrose finished with nine of his promised ten wickets, despite a hamstring strain.
West Indies wanted 87 to win, but felt the wrath of McGrath; when Lara fell to him for the fourth time running (for scores of 2, 1, 2 and 2), they were listing badly at 32 for three. Chanderpaul and Hooper bailed them out without needing to take the match into a fourth day. At 2-1, the series had come unexpectedly alive.
Man of the Match: C. E. L. Ambrose. Attendance: 131,671.
Close of play: First day, West Indies 29-1 (R. G. Samuels 10*, S. Chanderpaul 11*); Second day, West Indies 233-9 (J. C. Adams 54*, C. A. Walsh 2*).