Second Test

Australia v West Indies, 2005-06

Peter English


At Hobart, November 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 2005. Australia won by nine wickets. Toss: West Indies. Test debut: B. J. Hodge.

Until Dwayne Bravo and Denesh Ramdin combined to put on 182 on the fourth day, this match seemed to be heading the same one-sided way as the first. The result did eventually go in Australia's favour, but they had to toil significantly harder than at Brisbane to seal the Frank Worrell Trophy for the sixth consecutive series. West Indies were still 117 runs from avoiding an innings defeat when Bravo, who had replaced Jermaine Lawson in the side, and Ramdin, the 20-year-old wicketkeeper in only his fourth Test, came together for a refreshing seventh-wicket partnership that not only pushed the match into the fifth day, but also gave notice that the Trinidadian pair could compete against world-class opponents.

Australia made three changes, with Hodge (for his debut), MacGill and Symonds coming in for Bracken, Katich and Watson, and the additions created fewer disruptions than the rainy Hobart weather: the fact that a West Indies Test was assigned to Tasmania for the first time was itself a sign of the opposition's diminished status. So was their limp performance over the first three days. Chanderpaul won the toss again, and this time batted on a friendly surface only to see his team crumble for 149. McGrath and Lee orchestrated the early damage before MacGill, bowling alongside Warne in Australia for only the second time away from Sydney, rushed through three wickets inside five overs.

The strokeplaying opener Gayle top-scored, although he had to retire when 18 for medical attention after suffering dizzy spells caused by an irregular heartbeat. "It's a thing that's been happening over the years," said Gayle, who had minor surgery in Melbourne after the match, which ruled him out of the Third Test. Returning after Lara's marginal lbw dismissal to Lee, he moved to 56, surviving being caught behind off a Symonds no-ball before misjudging a back-of-the-hand slower one from McGrath, who nagged constantly with four for 31 from 23 overs.

The first-innings deficit was just 89 by the close, and Hayden and Hussey stepped out from a rain delay at 2 p.m. on the second day to complete a 231-run partnership at more than four an over. The stand provided Hussey with his maiden century in Tests, and Hayden with a fourth in his last four. Hayden found his partner's milestone even more enjoyable than his own: Hussey celebrated with a joyful leap and a drawn-out cry of "Woo-hoo" that carried through the stands at the Bellerive Oval towards the Derwent River. The two left-handers complemented each other and formed another dominating opening combination for Australia. Hayden delivered bursts of power, while Hussey was more controlled, preferring sweet drives through cover and pull shots when the bowlers dropped short, as they often did.

West Indies began to fight back on the third morning through Edwards and Bravo, taking six wickets in an extended opening session, including Ponting to the second ball of the day. The middle order showed further uncertainty when Clarke slapped a back-foot drive off Edwards to the substitute Dwayne Smith at point - the shot would cost him his place for Adelaide - then Symonds was run out in a mix-up with Hodge, and Gilchrist drove airily. Hodge settled the nerves with a composed debut half-century, and Australia finished with a lead of 257 despite losing nine wickets for 150 on the third day.

The recovery gained by the West Indian bowlers was quickly wasted by their batsmen. Both openers failed to survive a niggardly opening spell from McGrath (whose 48 overs in the match cost him only 60 runs), and soon the visitors' only hope seemed to be a big innings from Lara. Showing his most precise footwork of the series, Lara was unbeaten by the third-day close, after becoming Test cricket's second-highest runscorer - he passed Steve Waugh's 10,927 runs when he had 12. An umpiring error from Rudi Koertzen, who gave Lara out caught behind to Warne when his bat missed the ball but brushed his pad, ended his resistance next morning, although Lara's impact was evident in the batting of Bravo, his fellow Trinidadian.

Lara had advised Bravo how to counter Warne and MacGill, telling him he did not have to play every ball pitched outside leg stump and teaching him how to sweep. Patient at first on a turning track, Bravo played easily the best innings of his eight- Test career, and his 113 also spurred Ramdin to a career-best 71. Bravo dedicated his century to the Trinidad & Tobago football team which, like Australia's, had sealed surprise qualification for the 2006 World Cup in Germany on the eve of the Test. Bravo learned of his nation's success from a Lara telephone call in the early hours on the first morning, and gave them something more to celebrate when he and Ramdin set up their side's first century partnership of the series. "Our goal is to play for 14 or 15 years," said Bravo, "and to ensure that, when Brian and Shiv and the senior guys move on, we can turn things around."

Warne eventually ended Bravo's innings by bowling him around his legs, and knocked over the lower order with MacGill to give Australia a target of just 78 to win the series. Everyone had been so confident of a four-day victory that Cricket Australia had tentatively scheduled meetings with the players for the fifth day, which were cancelled, while the commentary teams had to rebook their hotels. "I don't think we took it lightly," said MacGill. "We all had respect for them and we didn't take the piss."

Australia lost only Hayden on the final day, trying to hit the winning run after completing 1,000 Test runs for the fifth calendar year in a row, but the celebrations were muted as Clarke, who a year before had introduced himself to Australian Test crowds with a brilliant century against New Zealand, discovered he had been dropped to allow Langer to return, and spent an awkward half-hour mooching around the outfield making phone calls.

Man of the Match: M. E. K. Hussey. Attendance: 29,186.

© John Wisden & Co.