Adelaide-The renewed optimism was, after all, an illusion.

Prompted by the equality of the first three days, it rapidly disappeared in Adelaide's crystal clear sunshine yesterday as another batting meltdown led to the third successive loss for the series early on the final day.

After 35 minutes on the final day (Monday night Caribbean time), Australia had duly retained the Frank Worrell Trophy that has been theirs since 1995, a trophy highly regarded by past andpresent players.

The fact that the match actually entered the fifth day, and that Australia had to bat again for the first time in the three Tests and lost five wickets reaching their puny target of 130, was little consolation for what was the West Indies' 16th defeat in their last 18 overseas Tests. It is a numbing statistic.

The winning run was struck down to third man by Damien Martyn, who ended 37 not out, after his 46 not out in the first innings. Stand-in captain Adam Gilchrist was with Martyn at the close on ten not out off five balls.

To be truthful, hope for a revival, following the capitulations in the first two Tests by an innings in three days, was based entirely on Brian Lara's dazzling return to the form that makes him the most devastating of contemporary batsmen.

Without Lara's first innings 182, the West Indies would have been in a familiar mess. He contributed exactly half the runs from the bat and not another man passed 50.

Australia were held to a minimal lead of 12 when Merv Dillon knocked over Glenn McGrath's off-stump with the fourth ball of the fourth morning.

But, based on irrefutable evidence, another West Indian batting collapse was always possible on a worn and cracked pitch, all but certain without another major contribution from Lara.

The left-hander rattled up 39 off 38 balls and that was enough to top-score in a total of 141. It was the 19th time in their last 18 overseas Tests they have been dismissed under 200, a reality that precisely explains their abysmal record.

The West Indies have won matches from similar hopelessness before, more recently when bowling out Zimbabwe for 63 in Port-of-Spain when all they needed was 99.

Merv Dillon, combining lively pace with control he has often previously lacked, and Courtney Walsh, created a few flutters with four wickets before the deficit had been reduced todouble-figures.

Chance of miracle

At 48 for four, there was a clear chance of another miracle but the captain didn't seem to believe.

Dillon produced two leg-cutters to account for Michael Slater and Mark Waugh, defending and edging catches to Ridley Jacobs.

The reliable Jacobs was in the action again at the opposite end, gathering in a deflection from Matthew Hayden so low to the ground it needed television confirmation it had carried, off Walsh who soon had first innings topscorer Ricky Ponting lbw.

The difference in attitude between the teams now became conspicuous.

The West Indies should have been scenting an unlikely turnaround. Instead, captain Adams lacked conviction and retained defensive field placings to the West Australian pair, Justin Langer, out in single figures in his previous three innings, and Damien Martyn.

With no one breathing down their necks, they pulled Australia round by adding 50 by close of Day 4.

The West Indies began their second innings with a minimal deficit of 12 after Dillon knocked over Glenn McGrath's off-stump with the fourth ball of the day.

Then all hopes rested on Lara.

The left-hander entered at 36 for two after Sherwin Campbell again fell to McGrath and Damien Martyn's incredible leaping catch at extra-cover accounted for Wavell Hinds off Stuart MacGill's full toss.

Lara proceeded to rattle up 39 off 38 balls. He once more took a liking to the leg-spin of MacGill who he took for 17 in an over that yielded 20 in all and, while he and the solid opener Daren Ganga were together in a partnership of 51, anything was possible.

Miller's fourth ball after lunch just about settled the matter. Lara prodded uncertainly forward to it and walked away even as Langer gathered the rebound from bat and pad at shortleg.

West Indies resistance went with him as eight wickets tumbled for 58, five to Miller for 24 from 12 overs that brought his match figures to 10 for 113. Several West Indians demonstrated lack of patience and technique against the turning ball.

Concerted appeal

Ganga, lbw on the front foot for his highest Test score, 32, was his 50th Test wicket.

It was doubly satisfying in that Miller and all the nearby Australians were so convinced he had been caught behind two runs earlier that they theatrically remonstrated at umpire Venkataraghavan's refusal of the concerted appeal.

Television replays did refute Venkat's verdict but the Australians could well find themselves in match referee A.C. Smith's report book for their carry-on, especially as it involved captain Gilchrist.

Smith already had to warn MacGill to be "most careful in future" after television cameras showed him forcibly barging into West Indies substitute Ramnaresh Sarwan on the steps to the dressing room after his dismissal on the third day.

There are ugly images that do not befit a champion team. What does is their general competence. They identified weakness and exploited them.

Hinds clobbered a full toss into the covers, Samuels' inexperience was revealed when he drove at the line of MacGill's leg-break and edged to slip.

Adams' loose drive off Miller presented a catch to cover, Nixon McLean and Ridley Jacobs could not cope with Miller's accurate off-spin and fell to close catches playing across the line and only robust strokes by Dillon at the end, scoring 19 off 28 balls, set Australia as many as 130.

They might not have got them had West Indies' resources been better distributed on the field.