Fourth Test

West Indies v Australia 1998-1999

The prospect of relinquishing the Frank Worrell Trophy, which had taken so many years to win, brought a new resolve to the Australian party. The harshness was such that captain Steve Waugh dropped his deputy Warne, who could point to just two wickets at 134.00 for the series. The decision was vindicated: Australia won to level the series, and MacGill, the leg-spinner of choice, took five wickets in the match, while two fresh bowlers introduced for this Test, Dale and Miller, claimed three wickets apiece.

Inevitably, so it seemed now, Lara scored another priceless century, but this time he could not make the match his own. Nevertheless his 100, reached in 82 balls - the second 50 from 21 deliveries - with 15 fours and three sixes, reaffirmed his genius for the third time in as many weeks. In contrast to his beautifully crafted innings in Kingston and Bridgetown, his 13th Test century was so frenzied it revived memories of Viv Richards's 56-ball hundred on this ground against England in 1985-86. It was as though Lara had neither the time nor the energy to play conventionally. As it was, only five days had passed since his astonishing six-hour epic in the Third Test. He took 13 balls to get started, went perilously close to running himself out, and was dropped by Miller off McGrath before he found his range. Again he was unable to secure significant support, and a first-innings deficit of 81 was telling.

In stark contrast to Lara, Steve Waugh had batted for more than five hours for an undefeated 72 after winning the toss for the fourth time: Australia's 11th consecutive success in Tests. Blewett, who returned to replace the curiously distracted Elliott, failed to build on a good start, as did Slater and Langer. It was left to Miller, with some startling hitting at No. 10, to ensure that the total reached 300. In a ninth-wicket stand of 53 with Waugh, Miller smashed 43 from 38 balls with two audacious leg-side sixes off Ambrose.

In the second innings, Langer hit his third Test century, and played with the poise of a bona fide No. 3. It was clear he had benefited from an extended run in this pivotal position: this was his 12th consecutive Test in six months, after his first eight had taken four years from January 1993. He received useful support from Slater and Mark Waugh, who ended a disappointing series with his second half-century, before the middle and bottom order collapsed in the face of another onslaught from Ambrose and Walsh. Australia lost their last eight wickets for 83, having lost their last six for 92 in the first innings.

MOST CONSECUTIVE TEST MATCH TOSSES WON

The sequence ended in the Second Test in Sri Lanka, 1999-2000.

Research: Gordon Vince.

12 England January 1960 to June 1961 P. B. H. May and M. C. Cowdrey
12† Australia October 1998 to September 1999 M. A. Taylor and S. R. Waugh
8 England June 1938 to February 1939 W. R. Hammond
8 England June 1971 to July 1972 R. Illingworth
8 West Indies January 1982 to October 1983 C. H. Lloyd
8 West Indies December 1994 to June 1995 C. A. Walsh and R. B. Richardson

Nevertheless, an overall lead of 387 put the game well out of West Indies' reach. Once Lara fell for seven to a cleverly disguised slower ball from McGrath, victory for Australia was assured. Griffith, who had retired after a blow to his arm from McGrath during the fourth afternoon, resumed, bruised but unbowed, that evening, and batted heroically until he was ninth out before tea on the final day. McGrath ended a memorable series with his 30th wicket, the debutant pace bowler Corey Collymore, though his performance was marred by a regrettable incident at the fourth-day close, when he spat on the pitch near Griffith. Referee Raman Subba Row issued a reprimand, which activated a suspended fine of 30 per cent of his fee imposed at the Melbourne Test in December.

Man of the Match: J. L. Langer.

Man of the Series: B. C. Lara.

Close of play: First day, Australia 221-5 (S. R. Waugh 52*, Healy 4*); Second day, West Indies 197-6 (Hooper 40*, Perry 2*); Third day, Australia 209-2 (Langer 84*, M. E. Waugh 60*); Fourth day, West Indies 105-4 (Griffith 16*, Adams 18*).

© John Wisden & Co