West Indies v Australia, First Test Match

Cricinfo staff

At Georgetown, April 10, 11, 12, 13, 2003. Australia won by nine wickets. Toss: West Indies. Test debut: D. S. Smith.

Understandably, given what had happened on their last Caribbean tour four years earlier, Australia were wary of the phenomenal, if sporadic, brilliance of a small, dynamic West Indian left-hander. It took less than two sessions for their fears to be realised, but this time it was the normally introverted Chanderpaul, rather than his exuberant captain, Lara, who briefly set the Australians on their heels.

Chanderpaul's century - off 69 deliveries, it was the third-fastest Test hundred in terms of balls faced - was both a sublime sideshow to start the series, and an innings of glorious cavalier defiance that foreshadowed how it would end. By the time Chanderpaul had reached six, half his team had been dismissed for 53 even though the Australians were without Glenn McGrath, who was at home with his sick wife, and speculation that Australia would crush their rivals appeared dishearteningly accurate. But in 108 minutes, Chanderpaul proved the calypso spirit was far from dead, as he launched himself at fast and slow bowling alike to lift West Indies to a respectable, if ultimately inadequate, 237. He gained invaluable support from Jacobs, who battled courageously after yanking a thigh muscle, an injury which required Hinds to keep wicket in both innings.

The Australians, many clearly still jaded after their World Cup success not three weeks before, then showed how batting should be approached on a flat, slow Bourda pitch. Langer and Ponting bettered West Indies' total in a single partnership of 248 and hinted at the dominance they would exert throughout almost all the series. Most of the middle order failed to cash in, but a typically robust 77 from Gilchrist at No. 6 helped Australia to a lead of 252.

A return of five for 93 from Drakes underscored what was wrong with the inexperienced West Indies attack. A journeyman professional, Drakes rarely threatened, though he did at least bowl a consistent line and length. West Indies badly missed Carl Hooper, sacked as captain and now apparently sulking, whose absence disturbed the balance of the attack. But their batsmen made up lost ground and at 295 for two in the second innings were thinking about possible safety. Lara had completed his 19th Test century on his return to the captaincy - an innings of growing authority that won over the hostile elements in the Bourda crowd who had jeered him for displacing the local hero, Hooper. But then came two crucial breakthroughs by Australia's leftarm spinners.

First the wrist-spinner, Hogg, removed Lara in bizarre fashion. One of Lara's hands came off the bat handle in an attempted sweep, and in a flailing of body and blade, the bat came down on to his leg stump. Australia struck an equally fortuitous blow near the close after Ganga, a surprise inclusion at No. 3, had broken through for his first Test century in his 18th appearance. After playing a patient hand, he tried a lazy drive against Lehmann's occasional finger-spin and was caught at short mid-wicket. West Indies went to stumps at 381 for five - 129 ahead with two days remaining.

Their last hopes vanished on the fourth morning when Gillespie unleashed a telling spell on the unresponsive pitch. West Indies lost their remaining five wickets - four to Gillespie - for 16 in just 45 balls. Another meticulously executed stand between Langer and Ponting clinched victory before tea. "Brian Lara can have a hundred every match," said Waugh "if we win by nine wickets." Waugh, had become Test cricket's most capped player in his 157th match, and there still seemed no stopping him and his team.

© John Wisden & Co.