1st Test

West Indies v Australia, 2011-12

Daniel Brettig


The Australians run through for their winning single, West Indies v Australia, 1st Test, Barbados, 5th day, April 11, 2012
Shades of Adelaide 2006 © AFP
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At Bridgetown, Barbados, April 7-11, 2012. Australia won by three wickets. Toss: West Indies. Test debut: M. S. Wade.

Australia won a slow-burning, ultimately thrilling, Test because they never stopped believing. West Indies, so unfamiliar with Test wins and the confidence they can instil, showed the fragility that had cost them in India in November, and allowed the Australians - behind for vast tracts of the match - to burst past them at the finish.

West Indies, still without Chris Gayle, had bade farewell to a bevy of their best one-day performers, before they convened in Barbados; Australia's batsmen were especially happy to see the back of Sunil Narine, who was off to the IPL. But in spite of the personnel they had lost, West Indies made a sturdy start. The Barbadian opener Kraigg Brathwaite frustrated the Australians in a stay of over four and a half hours, Kirk Edwards showed plenty of power before becoming the first Test victim of Warner's occasional leg-spin, and Darren Bravo played attractively. The tail then lingered in the company of Chanderpaul, who offered his customary mixture of deflections and dynamism, all wrapped up in a technique as comfortable on the docile Kensington pitch as a tourist on the local beaches. It was his 25th Test hundred.

The innings meandered and, with his pacemen failing to find the right lines or lengths, Clarke tried eight bowlers in 153 overs, before Sammy allowed himself the rare luxury of a declaration, West Indies' first against Australia in 21 years. All 11 batsmen reached double figures - the 12th such instance in Tests, but the first by West Indies. A total of 449 seemed large enough, and accumulated over enough time, at least to insure against defeat; Australia's early struggles did little to quell the notion. They found it difficult to score at any great pace, a succession of batsmen scraping around before succumbing to the speed of Roach and Fidel Edwards or the parsimony of Sammy. Ponting was chaotically run out, with Watson (in his first innings at No. 3) later admitting his guilt over the mix-up. Bishoo struggled for traction in what turned out to be a poor match for specialist spinners on both sides but, at 285 for eight, Australia were in serious trouble.

Harris, though, had long promised more with the bat than his modest Test record indicated, and found determined partners in Hilfenhaus and Lyon. Between them, they dragged the innings towards 400, helped by an extended morning session on the fourth day: it started half an hour early because of previous delays for bad light, and lunch was then put back by 30 minutes because the last pair were still together. Sammy's bowlers grew weary in the three-hour session, and Harris and Lyon grew in confidence in an unbroken stand of 77. An Australian declaration became West Indies' most likely means of getting off the field. When Clarke called his men in - following Test-bests for both Harris and Lyon - they still trailed by 43. With the exception of the leather-jacket match at Centurion in 1999-2000, with its two blank innings, only one team had ever won a Test after declaring behind: England beat West Indies at this very venue on a rain-affected pitch in 1934-35.

The momentum now was Australia's, and Clarke bravely reasoned that, with a shade over four sessions to go, he had little to lose. Things turned out rather better than that. Asked to bat for half an hour before tea, West Indies wilted against Hilfenhaus, who showed he had learned from the first day by pitching full and straight. Barath aimed a drive and lost his leg stump, Brathwaite swished unnecessarily outside off to be taken behind by the debutant Matthew Wade, and Kirk Edwards shuffled across and was lbw in a manner that would become familiar to English observers later in the year.

After the break, Harris collected the most critical scalp of all, angling the ball in from round the wicket and darting it away to send back Chanderpaul; Siddle then snuffed out a brief rally from Bravo before the close, which West Indies reached with a lead of 114 but only five wickets in hand. A series of nuisance-value lower-order stands soaked up time on the final morning, setting Australia 192 from 62 overs. It would test both their ability to score quickly on a wearing surface and the limits of light that had faded early on every day of the Test.

Clarke's plan called for the preservation of wickets up to tea, which was taken at 61 for one from 22 overs, and a headlong pursuit thereafter. Cowan dropped anchor - to the irritation of a section of fans - and Watson played aggressively for a 57-ball 52. He became the first of four quick wickets for Deonarine's gentle off-spin, including Cowan after 100 balls and just one boundary, but Sammy's subsequent field-placings suggested West Indies' priority remained salvaging a draw. Australia, by contrast, stayed focused on victory, and now Hussey and Wade put together a partnership of infinitely greater value than the 37 runs it accrued, steadying the innings while also rushing it forward.

Roach removed Wade with 15 needed, and Hussey with only three to go, but the winning runs came as the sun hid behind the Hall and Griffith Stand. Australia celebrated proudly, and in full view of a disconsolate Sammy, who promised to remember their jubilation. Clarke found parallels with the 2006-07 Adelaide Ashes Test, when Shane Warne had insisted the match would be won from similarly unpromising beginnings. "As a young player I thought: 'Righto, that's my attitude, I'm going to win.' A few years on and I'm in the change-rooms telling the boys we're going to win this Test match," said Clarke. "Hopefully a few of them believed me the way I believed Warnie back then."

Man of the Match: R. J. Harris.

Close of play: First day, West Indies 179-3 (Bravo 20, Chanderpaul 8); Second day, Australia 44-0 (Cowan 13, Warner 27); Third day, Australia 248-5 (Hussey 47, Wade 19); Fourth day, West Indies 71-5 (Deonarine 20, Baugh 2).

© John Wisden & Co.