Third Test

Australia v West Indies, 2005-06

Peter English


At Adelaide, November 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 2005. Australia won by seven wickets. Toss: West Indies.

Brian Lara added yet another of cricket's grandest batting records to his bulging individual collection when he became the highest Test run-scorer. Helped by his 41 runs in the ICC-accredited Super Series Test, Lara overtook Allan Border's 11,174-run milestone at 11.22 a.m. on the second day, paddle-sweeping McGrath to fine leg for a single to take him to 214 of his eventual 226. The extended tribute from the crowd and the handshakes from the fieldsmen were some of many celebrations throughout the match for Lara, in his 19th (and almost certainly last) Test in Australia.

Lara received a standing ovation the moment he walked out to the crease, at 19 for two. The applause kept being repeated over the next four sessions as Lara finally lit up the series with one of his special innings. His 405-minute, 298-ball masterclass contained a mix of delightful swings between point and cover, clever innovation against the spin of Warne and MacGill, extended periods of resolute defence as he fought to repel the opposition, and occasional flinches to short ones from McGrath and Symonds.

During the Second Test McGrath observed that Lara, at 36, was much shakier at the start of his innings than he had been - and Lara showed that to be true at 15, when he padded up to Symonds. To most naked eyes it looked out immediately, but not to umpire Aleem Dar. And replays raised doubt about whether it pitched on leg stump; at the very least it made up for previous mistakes. Lara was unperturbed, and the exhibition, which included 22 fours, was one of unbending concentration as he showed satisfaction in sweating for runs instead of merely waving his magic wand.

Chanderpaul won the toss for the third Test running, and finally had the end-of-day result he had craved while the series was still alive. The first-day score of 352 for seven was mainly down to Lara, who scored 57% of the total as he brought up his 31st Test hundred, and later his eighth double-century, passing Wally Hammond's seven and behind only The Don's dozen. As stumps neared, he reached 200 with a cracking pull off Lee, looked to the sky and mouthed "Thank you" to his late dad Bunty. "My father is my No. 1," said Lara afterwards. "From when I was six or seven he lived vicariously through me." Lara's team-mates have relied on him for most of his career, too, and few of them offered lasting support even as they achieved their most dominant position of the series: the next-best score was Bravo's 34.

Once again, a situation of West Indian strength turned to one of worry, as the reunited openers Hayden and Langer sped along at almost six an over to reach 97, before Hayden became the first of Bravo's six victims. Ponting eased to a half-century, and Australia had reached the comfort of 211 for one before Bravo started to wrestle back control with his medium-fast probing. He dismissed Ponting, and Edwards had Langer caught behind after ten balls on 99: the following day Bravo captured four more wickets, and Australia were suddenly flapping, 110 behind with eight wickets down.

Hussey, who was pushed down to No. 5 to accommodate the return of Langer, had only 35 when MacGill joined him, but played a brilliant innings as he protected the tailender and punished the bowling to register his second century in his first three Tests. Hussey, who survived chances at 88 and 116, did not think a century was an option at first but, with MacGill standing firm in a 93-run partnership, he often pushed singles towards the end of overs. A calm lofted boundary brought his hundred and more Hobart-style hollering.

West Indies' spirit had again been weakened, as their presumed advantage melted into a deficit of 23, and before the end of the third day they had lost both openers, Devon Smith and Wavell Hinds, recalled to replace Gayle. Sarwan played his brightest innings of the series, but fell next morning to one of several more contentious decisions. The Lee yorker to which he was given out lbw was swinging down leg, and Dwayne Smith (the replacement for Marlon Samuels, who had left the tour with a knee injury), was also given out leg-before despite edging Warne on to his pad. There was no doubt about Lara's dismissal, though, a stunning reflex catch by Hayden at first slip off Warne as Test cricket's greatest wicket-taker removed its highest run-scorer: it was the first time these two record-holders had been in opposition since 1886-87, when England's Arthur Shrewsbury faced the Australian "Demon" Fred Spofforth.

Warne bowled unchanged throughout the first two sessions - 29 overs - to take six for 80, and moved within one of Dennis Lillee's 1981 record of 85 Test victims in a calendar year. Bravo proved harder to dislodge, and he capped a strong all-round match by hitting 64. This made sure of a reasonable target before the innings was finished off by Lee and Warne, who was later cleared by Mike Procter, the referee, of a dissent charge following a rejected bat-pad appeal off Powell in the final over of the third day.

Australia needed 182 for a series clean sweep - and to complete West Indies' 35th defeat in their last 39 overseas Tests, excluding six in Bangladesh and Zimbabwe - and were made to work through three sessions to reach their target. Hayden, who edged Sarwan to first slip when 27 but was given not out after a subdued appeal, batted until after lunch on the final day, and was named Man of the Series for his 445 runs at 89.

However, the stage was still Lara's, and he was presented with a framed photograph of himself by Richie Benaud, and awarded life membership of the South Australia Cricket Association.

Man of the Match: B. C. Lara. Attendance: 69,342.

© John Wisden & Co.