Player of the Match
Player of the Match

Seventy-one parts to another tragedy

All it took was seventy-one minutes. To underline the gulf between Australia and West Indies yet again, that is. In fact, the second day of the Fourth Test was the perfect encapsulation of the state of this entire series. While the West Indians ultimately averted the possibility of following on by the narrowest possible margin, they nonetheless crashed again to find themselves dismissed for 165 in reply to Australia's 364 by the time that the day's play finally ended at 7:19 pm.

If it hadn't been for wicketkeeper-batsman Ridley Jacobs, then the West Indians might as well have written this day off entirely. From very early in the piece, the Australians began building a strong position from which to pursue a fourteenth successive Test victory. And their sense of command was never relinquished; not even during the course of a sixth wicket partnership of seventy-five that at least went some way toward rectifying the by then horrific West Indian plight. At the heart of the home team's work remained the indomitable figure of Steve Waugh (121*), whose completion of a twenty-third Test century amid a fine complementary effort from the Australian tail appeared to thoroughly demoralise the tourists.

It took Waugh a mere sixteen minutes this morning to raise two significant landmarks. His hundred itself came after he ran a cheeky single from a shot dropped into the leg side in the second over of the day. And then, within the space of another three overs, he sauntered past Sir Vivian Richards (8540) into fifth place on the all-time list of leading Test run scorers as he clipped a shot sweetly off his pads through mid wicket.

With spectacular support being provided to him by the spirited tailend batting of Jason Gillespie (19), Colin Miller (29) and an outrageously expansive Glenn McGrath (11), Waugh was barely troubled today by the West Indian bowlers. The only real disruption to his mixture of solid defence and forceful driving to both sides of the wicket came when the first of the day's three downpours sent the players scurrying from the field for eleven minutes after just under an hour's play.

Jacobs (42), who is rapidly assuming the mantle of West Indies' 'Mr Fix-It', has had a lot of repair work to do on this tour but is showing little of the strain that it must surely have caused him by now. Again today, he was condemned to a hopeless position as his team plummeted to 5/28 fifteen minutes before tea in their response. This all coming after he had claimed seven catches behind the stumps to join Wasim Bari, Ian Smith and Bob Taylor as the only men in history to achieve the feat in a single Test innings.

Having watched Australia escape difficulties of its own on the far from placid pitch, West Indies' batting line-up simply imploded in the period following lunch. Another heavy downpour delayed the scheduled start of the innings by thirty-five minutes. But it could not prevent the sight of ball regularly beating bat when hostilities did eventually re-commence.

For half an hour, new ball bowlers Gillespie (3/48) and McGrath (0/15) applied the most restrictive of clamps to the West Indians' progress, refusing to grant them so much as a run until thirty-seven deliveries had been bowled. And even then, the pattern was only broken by a McGrath no-ball! For the next hour and eleven minutes, the West Indian dressing room became a casualty room.

It was Gillespie who struck first when he induced Daren Ganga (4) into a tentative push at a well pitched leg cutter thirty minutes into the innings. After being dropped twice from successive Gillespie deliveries - first by Andy Bichel at fourth slip and then by the bowler himself - Wavell Hinds (0) failed to capitalise on his charmed existence, occupying the crease for only ten deliveries. His dismissal, which came when - somewhat ironically - he was brilliantly caught by Michael Slater at the first of two Gillespie gullies, then joined Sherwin Campbell (5) and Brian Lara (16) at the crease in desperate circumstances at 2/6.

For a while, Lara provided hope of better things with some characteristically flashy shotmaking through the off side. But, not long after a double bowling change which saw Bichel (5/60) and Miller (1/37) introduced, the star left hander was on his way back to the pavilion too. His exit came after he drove at veritable jack-in-the-box Bichel and sent a thick outside edge arrowing low to Mark Waugh's left at second slip.

Campbell had occupied the crease for ninety-five deliveries but had never looked comfortable. And so it was that he soon joined the mass exodus, the victim of an excellent diving catch from Matthew Hayden at silly point off Miller's bowling. Just to reinforce the aura of superiority that he had established over the tourists with his ten wicket haul in the Third Test in Adelaide, it was Miller's very first delivery of off spin in this match.

Captain Jimmy Adams (0) has frequently been the man to whom the West Indians have turned in times of batting crisis of late. It was therefore a measure of the depths that his side was beginning to plumb that not even he could at least make any sort of fist of steadying the ship by this point. He tried to withdraw his bat from the path of a Bichel delivery of good length and bounce on an off stump line but succeeded only in sending the ball through to wicketkeeper Adam Gilchrist off the inner portion of his blade. At 5/28, any hope of working their way into even a vaguely respectable position had all but disappeared.

With the promising nineteen year old Marlon Samuels (60*), the resolute Jacobs was able to orchestrate a fightback that has at least made the prospect of another three-day Test seem considerably more remote. Sensibly, both Jacobs and Samuels adopted the no-nonsense strategy of playing straight and resisting temptation. More critically, they ensured that they did not allow the Australians to dictate terms to them. What a shame that none of the other nine players in their team seemed to subscribe to the same simple philosophy.