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May 26, 2008
Ricky Ponting didn't mean to sound desperate, but at the end of the Test, which was secured by some brilliant bowling from Stuart Clark, he struggled to contain his thoughts on Michael Clarke and Matthew Hayden coming back. Apart from Ponting and Andrew Symonds, who collected a double of 70 not out and 79, the top-order batting was a serious concern at Sabina Park, and the prospect of two main men returning excited Ponting.
"Clarke will obviously come back in," Ponting said before correcting himself slightly as the camera showed Clarke standing next to Andrew Hilditch, the chairman of selectors and the man who makes those decisions. Hayden's achilles has been improving and he planned to have a centre-wicket practice once the post-match presentation had cleared.
"Hayden has been getting around a lot better over the last couple of days," Ponting said. "Hopefully both those guys come up alright and we'll get them back in the side sooner rather than later."
After two poor openings - Australia were 37 for 2 in the first innings and 18 for 5 on day four - Ponting needs his pillars on duty. West Indies are also hopeful of Chris Gayle and Jerome Taylor, two of their major weapons, being available in Antigua from Friday.
Brad Hodge made useful contributions in both innings, but Clarke's arrival in the West Indies from compassionate leave means the Victorian will probably be squeezed off the tour. If Hayden comes back, Simon Katich will also lose his spot in the team following his 12 and 1 at the top of the order.
The look of the Australians after the match was more relief after Clark had captured 5 for 32 and West Indies had fallen for 191, giving the tourists a 95-run win. "We had our up-and-down moments right through the course of the game," Ponting said. "The first couple of days we dominated, then West Indies did well to fight back late on day three, taking those four wickets. It got them back into the game.
"Symonds' innings yesterday was crucial for us, it got us back in front. Then Clark and Brett Lee led the way outstandingly well today. It turned out being a terrific Test."
Clark was superb and he and Lee, operating in partnership, made sure the game was sealed by lunch. "The wicket was good for bowling, a little up and down," Clark said. "They were nice conditions, and it was my day here."
Ponting was also impressed by the performance of his leading fast men. "The way we went about it today, that was really Test cricket," he said. "We didn't give them any easy runs in the first session. The bowlers stuck to their jobs manfully, and that was the turning point in the game."
He saved special praise for Clark's achievements since joining the Test team in 2006. "How could you not admire what he's done," Ponting told reporters after play. "He's averaged 20 in 16 or so Test matches, and that's a really great achievement, especially when he hasn't bowled with the new ball on a lot of those occasions.
"And we're playing on a lot pitches like this, where you just have to go against what you do in Australia and find different ways of working batsmen over and getting them out. Whatever the situation required, you know that he'll come in and get the job done for you. Whether it be a seaming pitch or something like the one in this match. He'll give you what is expected and what the team requires."
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