First Test

Australia v West Indies, 2009-10

At Brisbane, November 26, 27, 28, 2009. Australia won by an innings and 65 runs. Toss: Australia. Test debuts: A. B. Barath, R. Rampaul.


Adrian Barath jumps for joy on reaching a century on debut, Australia v West Indies, 1st Test, Brisbane, 3rd day, November 28, 2009
Adrian Barath's ton provided hope for the future © Getty Images
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Australia went into the First Test seeking redemption after the comprehensive defeat at The Oval which led to the loss of the Ashes. West Indies, meanwhile, back to something like full strength after a bitter contracts dispute had led to a threadbare replacement team losing twice to Bangladesh, were simply looking to be competitive. Still, few observers gave them any chance of wresting back the Frank Worrell Trophy, or even winning their first Test in Australia in 12 years.

The visitors' task was made even more difficult by a series of hammer-blows in the lead-up to the series opener. Captain Chris Gayle, after providing only lukewarm rebuttals to his comments earlier in the year that he would not be too unhappy if Test cricket were to die, was called back to Jamaica after the sudden illness of his mother. He was in doubt for this Test and even the series, but his mother's rapid improvement allowed Gayle to return just 24 hours before the start, somewhat jet-lagged but with his mind considerably clearer.

Then Ramnaresh Sarwan suffered severe back spasms during a training session, and was ruled out of the Test. Further bad news came early in the match itself, when the leading fast bowler Jerome Taylor broke down with a hip injury that soon forced his return home. Taylor had missed the sole warm-up game with what was variously described as hip, back and general soreness, but, whatever the ailment, his absence was keenly felt after his early dismissal of Watson. Although Roach, still only 21, underlined his considerable promise by unfurling a barrage of 90mph questions that the Australians were mostly uncomfortable answering, his development would only have benefited from having a senior bowler at the other end.

Australia recalled the steady off-spinner Hauritz, whose absence at The Oval was seen as a critical reason for defeat, although the man himself was bemused that a career spent fending off criticism of his apparent lack of impact had given way to a new status as a match-winner in absentia. Fittingly, Hauritz was to produce his finest performance in his eighth Test, spread over more than five years, clipping a maiden half-century and bowling such incisive drifting and gripping off-breaks that he claimed five cheap wickets and was on a hat-trick.

Each Australian contributed, five gathering half-centuries before an enterprising first- innings declaration from the usually conservative Ponting, while West Indies produced only modest resistance against an attack that was penetrating, persistent and varied. Swing bowler Hilfenhaus put aside the discomfort of knee tendinitis to collect five wickets, including Gayle lbw twice, while the seldom-used Hussey had an even rarer success, taking only his second Test wicket when Bravo, hooking a very medium-paced bouncer, fell for the sucker punch on the final day. Gayle stayed and called for a video review each time he was dismissed, and each time was shown to be comprehensively adjacent, indicating that greater understanding of the system was needed.

Journeyman Travis Dowlin, a Stanford beneficiary and a survivor of the Bangladesh shambles, was a revelation with a fighting 62, but it was the performance of the 19-year- old Trinidadian Adrian Barath that was to provide the greatest hope for the future. Ponting enforced the follow-on for just the third time in his 62-match tenure as captain (there had been seven further occasions when he had declined to do so, and an eighth followed at Perth), and it proved a wise decision as his bowlers scythed through the feeble batting to end the game on the third day. But Barath did his best to turn back the tide. Buoyed by his international exposure at the Champions League Twenty20 only a few weeks earlier, the diminutive Barath stood tall with 104 from just 138 deliveries with 19 fours, cutting and driving powerfully. He became only the ninth teenager to score a century on Test debut, following Pakistan's Umar Akmal by a day or two, and for a significant period was on track to produce the highest percentage of runs in a completed innings before he was finally dismissed for 104 out of 154. He was the youngest West Indian to score a Test century, beating the great George Headley by a year, and became just the fifth batsman to have hit the only century of a Test his side lost by an innings.

Nonetheless, the innings victory was Australia's ninth consecutive win against West Indies at home, equalling their record against any opponent, and was an emphatic step towards Ponting's goal of regaining the No. 1 Test ranking. It was also their 16th win in 21 Tests at the Gabba since their last defeat there, to West Indies in 1988-89.

Man of the Match: B. W. Hilfenhaus. Close of play: First day, Australia 322-5 (North 42, Haddin 9); Second day, West Indies 134-5 (Dowlin 40, Ramdin 22).

© John Wisden & Co.