Second Test

West Indies v Australia 1998-1999

Toss: Australia. Test debuts: N. O. Perry, L. A. Roberts.

There can have been few more dramatic turnarounds in the history of Test cricket than this. Only Lara could have changed the course of the series after Trinidad, and he did so by defying odds and circumstances that would have crushed most men. On one fantastic, sunny, windy Sunday, Lara seduced the people of a bankrupt nation, resurrected his career as a batsman of rare gifts and reignited cricket throughout the Caribbean. He did it with an unforgettable double-century, which enabled West Indies to reach an imposing 431 and a lead of 175. It was, by universal consent, one of the great Test innings: Tony Cozier, the distinguished Barbadian commentator, thought it was the most significant ever by a West Indian.

But for the steely determination of Steve Waugh on the opening day, Lara would have put match out of the reach of the Australians much earlier. The most surprising aspect of Waugh's first hundred as Australian Test captain was that it took so long - two matches. Yet, while there was an inevitability about his run-gathering, the same could not be said for those around him. Only his brother Mark mustered the same spirited resistance. They added 112 for the fourth wicket, reviving memories of their epic stand of 231 on the same ground four years earlier. After Mark departed, Steve was compelled to manipulate the strike; he was the last out, for an even 100, against an attack again skilfully piloted by Walsh, on his way to another seven-wicket match return. But another West Indian disaster threatened when they closed on 37 for four.

Fourteen wickets had fallen on the first day and the same number would fall on the third. But on the second, there was not a solitary success for the Australians, despite the magnificent bowling of McGrath. Given the brittleness of the West Indian batting, this was a remarkable achievement, and Lara made special commendation of Adams for his selfless and highly intelligent support. Together, they put on 322, a West Indian record for the fifth wicket, but Adams replaced Collins, who retired hurt at 56 for four so, in all, 344 were added without loss. The previous record belonged to Garry Sobers and Seymour Nurse, with 265 against England at Headingley in 1966.

Lara was circumspect early on, but stepped up a gear to strike MacGill for two sixes in an over, and Blewett for four successive fours. He drove Warne for a third six, and hit 28 fours in all, batting for 469 minutes and 344 balls. It was his 11th century in Tests - but the first since June 1997 - and his third double. He gave a chance on 44, off McGrath, when Mark Waugh dropped him at slip, and could have been run out for 99 when Blewett demolished the stumps. The crowd decided he had safely completed a cheeky single before the third umpire delivered his verdict, which might have included an element of benefit of the doubt; only one camera was available. Lara had to be rescued by security men from the enveloping throng and then awaited the verdict on the boundary. No one knows how Sabina might have responded had he been given out. His double-century came without the same uncertainty but was greeted even more rapturously; one man ran on with a baby in his arms; another wore only a bandanna on his head. Lara sensibly retreated to the pavilion. He finally succumbed to McGrath early on the third morning, and the resolute Adams followed six short of his own century. McGrath finished with five in an innings for the third time running, but hardly anyone noticed.

Devastated at being put to the sword by Lara, the Australians offered no resistance in the second innings. Off-spinner Nehemiah Perry celebrated his debut in front of his home crowd by taking five for 70, with some assistance from a splendid pitch. The square had been impressively relaid after the highly embarrassing abandonment of the England Test the previous year. West Indies needed only three runs to complete an overwhelming victory, and level the series, early on the fourth morning.

Man of the Match: B. C. Lara.

Close of Play: First day, West Indies 37-4 (Lara 7*, Collins 1*); Second day, West Indies 377-4 (Lara 212*, Adams 88*); Third day, Australia 157-8 (Gillespie 7*).

© John Wisden & Co