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June 1, 2008
Stuart MacGill picked up an important wicket on the day he decided to quit Test cricket but Shivnarine Chanderpaul's solid resistance was decreasing Australia's chances of giving him a farewell victory. On a day shortened to one session because of rain and a wet outfield, West Indies reached 255 for 4 at the close with Chanderpaul on 55 and Dwayne Bravo on 29, and they still trailed by 224 runs.
It was a frustrating day for the players and spectators at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium as the venue's drainage, which was a problem during last year's World Cup, once again failed to impress the umpires and captains. Rain during the morning meant no play was possible before lunch but despite the optimistic sunny skies after the break, it took so long to mop up the wet outfield that play could not begin until 3.30pm local time - five and a half hours late.
While Australia's players were on the sidelines twiddling their thumbs and waiting for a chance to get at the West Indies middle order, they at least had time to digest the news that MacGill was retiring. After his major struggles in the first Test in Jamaica and on the second day of the Antigua game he told his team-mates of his decision on the third morning. When play finally began MacGill, freed of the pressure of trying to justify his position, promptly bowled a better line and length.
Ramnaresh Sarwan was providing some solid resistance and had reached 65 when MacGill tossed up one of his best legbreaks of the series, a delivery that drew Sarwan forward and caught the outside edge. The in-form Michael Clarke lunged low to his right and clasped the catch at first slip. It was a key wicket; Sarwan had played confidently until that stage and was strong when cutting the fast men. He also guided Brett Lee over the slips for four and had built a 77-run stand with Chanderpaul.
After Sarwan departed, Chanderpaul found a useful ally in Bravo, although they were gifted some easy runs as MacGill's woes returned - he even struggled with his run-up and bowled eight no-balls. Bravo dispatched two loose MacGill full tosses over long on for six but it was Chanderpaul who was the bigger worry for Australia. Chanderpaul looked as reliable as he had at Sabina Park, where he made a gutsy century, and he was his usual patient self. He cover-drove with precision when MacGill strayed with full tosses and worked ones and twos that kept Australia's fielders active.
It was unlikely to be enough for West Indies. While the big chunk taken out of the day might have reduced Australia's chances of victory it all but extinguished the hopes of West Indies, who need a win to retain any possibility of regaining the Frank Worrell Trophy. The final two days will reveal how much fight West Indies can display in a cause that is virtually lost, and whether Australia can provide a farewell to remember for a man who has given them more than 200 Test wickets.
What's wrong with their cricket? Well, what isn't?