At Adelaide, December 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 2009. Drawn. Toss: West Indies.
What a difference a week makes. Reeling from a three-day shellacking at the Gabba that gave rise to a slew of "Worst Indies" headlines, the tourists outplayed their recent conquerors. And it was the much-maligned Gayle who led the way, with an innings of such substance and commitment that he single-handedly did more to sustain Test cricket than some players might achieve in a career.
A day after the South Australian government announced $A500m plans to convert the country's most graceful cricket ground into a multi-purpose stadium primarily for Australian football, the national cricket team appeared to go out in sympathy with the loss of the Adelaide Oval's 19th-century grandeur. Their batsmen could make little headway against an enthusiastic West Indies attack; their bowlers were stymied by dogged defence and audacious attack; and they had limited luck with the umpire review system.
Yet a pitch that deteriorated rapidly to start with, but then stayed the same for much of the ﬁnal three days, ultimately aided Australia in their bid to save the match and protect their series lead. Seeking a record tenth consecutive home win against West Indies, Australia were dealt a tough blow when Hilfenhaus was declared unﬁt with deteriorating knee tendinitis. He had been one of the few bowlers not sent back from the recent one-day series in India although, as a key member of the Test attack, he more than almost anyone else would have beneﬁted from time at home preparing for the summer.
West Indies regained Sarwan, who showed his experience with a valuable attempt to blunt the Australian pacemen, but it was the middle order that set up West Indies' control. Chanderpaul was the cornerstone, with a four-hour 62 that ended in controversial circumstances when the third umpire Asad Rauf ruled in favour of Australia after a referral, claiming that "common sense" enabled him to deduce the faintest of edges when the technology was not able to pick up the contact. The on-ﬁeld umpire Mark Benson withdrew from the match that night and ﬂew straight home to England, many observers speculating that his decision was driven by Rauf overruling him, although Benson later released a statement claiming he was ill and unable to see out the Test.
Bravo was certainly in the rudest health and, aided by the former Queenslander and transplanted Jamaican Nash (who completed a ﬁghting 92 against his former countrymen), travelled comfortably to his third Test century, inspiring his team to a formidable 451. Australia went close in reply, but the batsmen continued their new-found habit of passing 50 without going on to three ﬁgures. Watson's attempt was the most poignant, the remade opener reaching 96 before losing his middle stump to the crafty Benn as he attempted to heave the boundary that would have brought his maiden Test century.
Soon Gayle entered the fray. A lead of just 12 left West Indies vulnerable, but their captain was to stand like a colossus between his sometimes fragile charges and anAustralian attack nourished by regular wickets. He found allies who stayed in for an hour or so while he resisted his natural instinct to attack on the way to carrying his bat for a splendid, chanceless 165 out of 317. He remained in the middle throughout the 441-minute innings, saw off 285 deliveries and ten partners and struck 16 fours and a six. NoWest Indies captain had ever carried his bat in a Test before; indeed, only three other openers had ever managed it for them - Desmond Haynes (three times), Conrad Hunte and Frank Worrell.
A team with greater recent winning experience might have decided to bowl earlier than West Indies, who batted well into the last day for a lead of 329, but they remained the only side capable of winning the match. Australia were rarely troubled, although Bravo jangled their nerves with three quick strikes before Clarke eased them to safety. Even so, Gayle revealed that a proud heart still beats below the maroon cap, and that West Indies' darkest hour - or decade - may be drawing to a close.
Man of the Match: C. H. Gayle. Close of play: First day, West Indies 336-6 (Sammy 44, Nash 44); Second day, Australia 174-0 (Watson 96, Katich 71); Third day,West Indies 23-0 (Gayle 12, Barath 10); Fourth day,West Indies 284-8 (Gayle 155, Rampaul 0).