Accidental tourist leads the support
Brad Hodge's sixth Test was familiar to his first. After a long wait for promotion, his opponents were West Indies and he stepped in with a confident contribution. On an opening day when both sides introduced and recycled some fresh faces, Hodge provided the most attractive support role to the A-list performance of Ricky Ponting.
Calm and assured, Hodge did not look like the accidental tourist he became when Michael Clarke delayed his trip to the Caribbean for family reasons. Hodge's inclusion was expected to last a week in case of another injury, a usually unlikely scenario. Then Matthew Hayden's heel refused to heal and Hodge went from the fringe to the middle.
Australia's position was unsure when he arrived at 174 for 3. Ponting was cruising, but Michael Hussey had battled after Simon Katich and Phil Jaques departed relatively early. A cut for four was followed by a straight drive to the boundary in the same Daren Powell over. Hodge was settled. On a pitch that was staying low at times, he was troubled on a few occasions, including on 12 when his glance off Amit Jaggernauth was missed by the wicketkeeper Denesh Ramdin.
He was more comfortable when the ball was on the stumps and West Indies helped him re-adjust to Test life. During his debut in 2005, Hodge scored a delightful 60, but Bob Simpson, the former Australia coach, worried about his tendency to play away from his body when pushing at balls outside off stump from the fast bowlers. It was a thought that concerned the selectors enough not to pick him for the 2005-06 South Africa tour, and he was dropped with a Test average of 58.42 after five Tests.
West Indies didn't seem to remember Hodge's previous problems and he was allowed to drive straight, play behind point and produce the occasional pull. The most brutal shot came two overs before stumps when he stepped back and thrashed Jaggernauth for six over midwicket to bring up his half-century. He finished the day on 53 and will re-start his innings, and his push for more Test action, on the second morning.
Ponting out-scored Hodge and the Victorian was happy to remain in control, unlike Katich earlier in the day. Katich had to wait two-and-a-half years for another Test chance and his stay was over in 11 deliveries as an aggressive outlook took hold. The danger of an edge first ball did not put him off and he struck three boundaries before driving airily and falling to a catch in the gully off Fidel Edwards.
Australia's other new face, Brad Haddin, spent a quiet day waiting to bat after collecting his cap from Ricky Ponting and becoming the country's 400th Test player. Two more wickets have to fall before he can make his first mark.
There was no long delay for Jaggernauth - the offspinner's cap had come from West Indies' manager Omar Khan - and he was employed by Ramnaresh Sarwan in the second session. While things were much tougher for him after tea, his first victim was unforgettable. Hussey had been proving difficult to remove, but Jaggernauth went around the wicket and forced an edge, which was taken athletically by a lunging Dwayne Bravo at first slip. He finished with 1 for 74 off 20 overs following some heavy treatment from Ponting, who stood above everyone on the opening day.
Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo