First Test

Australia v West Indies, 2005-06

Peter English


At Brisbane, November 3, 4, 5, 6, 2005. Australia won by 379 runs. Toss: West Indies. Test debut: M. E. K. Hussey.

Australia had few problems in taking a 1-0 lead with a ruthless victory (their 46th, against 32 defeats) in the 100th Test match between these two sides. Ponting, criticised during the Ashes tour for a lack of leadership and for captaincy by consensus, recaptured his authority by scoring twin centuries, which covered the cracks forming in an uncertain middle order in the first innings. Then he shut out West Indies by declining to enforce the follow-on.

"Everyone in the dressing-room knows we can do better," said Chanderpaul. "It's probably the worst we have had so far. For a wicket like that, with our line-up, we should have got more runs." Chanderpaul had gambled by fielding, and sending in Australia's first new opening partnership since The Oval in 2001, when Justin Langer first teamed up with Matthew Hayden. With Langer nursing a broken rib, Australia gave Michael Hussey a first cap after 15,313 first-class runs, a record for an Australian batsman. Hussey admitted he could not feel his legs after hearing "that bloody national anthem", and failed to find his feet either, falling to a top-edged pull in the sixth over. He would also depart to a cross-batted shot in the second innings.

Collymore, the most consistent of West Indies' fast men, delivered his best spell of the series after lunch to take three wickets in three overs, but Ponting calmly glided away from the danger of 111 for four, putting on 104 with Gilchrist as Chanderpaul's insertion began to look less inspired. Well balanced and driving strongly, Ponting, who gave chances when 81 and 141, brought up his century from 131 balls, and by the end of his innings had overtaken David Boon and Mark Taylor to sit in fourth place on Australia's list of Test run-scorers.

Healthy contributions from the lower order pushed Australia to 435, a comfortable position reinforced when West Indies lost their last eight wickets for 76 to be dismissed for 210 after a defiant four-hour rearguard by Devon Smith. Lee started the collapse by winning an incorrect lbw decision against Lara from South African umpire Ian Howell - the ball was heading down the leg side.

It had already been an eventful day for Lee, who pulled Powell for a huge six over the square-leg grandstand, which is six storeys high, during his 47. The ball landed near the feet of Carl Rackemann, the former Test fast bowler, shortly after he had passed through the turnstiles with his wife and young daughter. McGrath became the first bowler to take 100 wickets against West Indies, and he and Warne, who dismissed Edwards with a googly and Lawson with his rediscovered flipper to claim five for 48, combined to close down the tourists and give Australia a lead of 225.

Australia's aversion to enforcing the follow-on, which started after the 2000-01 Kolkata defeat, persuaded Ponting to demand an unassailable buffer, and Hayden squeezed his third century in as many matches, from opponents showing few signs of purpose with sloppy fielding and even sloppier bowling. The declaration came before play started on the fourth morning, by which time Ponting had passed Greg Chappell's 24 Test centuries, putting him fourth on that Australian list too, behind Steve Waugh, Bradman and Border.

Set a notional 509 for victory - or two days of obduracy for a draw - West Indies succumbed to Lee's first five-wicket haul in four years, and the swing of Bracken: they kept McGrath and Warne both wicketless for the first time in the 157 completed innings in which they had bowled together. Lee prepared for this match by trying to master a line-and-length approach, and struggled in the first innings: but, after a mid-Test discussion with Ponting, he returned to his fire-and-brimstone ways and picked up career-best figures of five for 30 as West Indies surrendered for 129, their last seven wickets disappearing in nine overs for just 30 runs. The only downsides for Australia were the form of Katich and Clarke, and the injury picked up by the all-rounder Watson. He dived for a ball shortly after capturing his second Test wicket, dislocated his shoulder, and was ruled out of this series and the next, against South Africa.

Man of the Match: R. T. Ponting. Attendance: 51,330.

© John Wisden & Co.