Three innings of massive West Indian underachievement were finally replaced by the resistance expected of a Test side. A couple of young Trinidadians, who starred in age-group sides and boast only twelve appearances between them, transferred their talents to the international arena and recorded career bests as they ruined Australia's visions of a free fifth day.
Before Dwayne Bravo and Denesh Ramdin combined their scar-free forces the tourists had not posted a century partnership, three-Test series were already being considered as too long and the home side was tentatively scheduling meetings with Cricket Australia and the Australian Cricketers' Association for tomorrow. As a chimney adjacent to Bellerive Oval released smoke from a cosy lounge room, West Indies started a slow-burning seventh-wicket stand that grew into a 182-run bushfire and prevented Australia from sealing the series.
Leading by 175 runs overnight, the hosts were so confident in their position that the threat of Brian Lara, who was 18 not out, was not a concern. The view that even a century by Trinidad's favourite batsman could not secure a competitive total because of an unproductive lower-order was stunningly upturned. Although he set the gritty standard for his countrymen, they were right not to worry about Lara, who was removed by Rudi Koertzen's incorrect caught-behind decision, but the casual attitude towards Bravo and Ramdin was costly in terms of time and egos.
Bravo, a 22-year-old in his seventh match, replaced Jermaine Lawson for the second Test to provide medium-fast bowling and add depth to the batting order. However, the wickets of Michael Hussey and Adam Gilchrist will be forgotten with his second Test century, an innings that countered the problems of a team in a seemingly lost cause, two legbreak bowlers spinning the ball heavily and the run suffocation of Glenn McGrath, who gave up 29 in 25 overs.
The 14th boundary, a delightful flick off his legs from Stuart MacGill, brought up Bravo's hundred from his 153rd ball and also produced a crowd reaction that had grown in appreciation since he reached his fifty and West Indies passed the point needed to make Australia bat again. As their opponents grew grumpier, Bravo and Ramdin lightened the match's mood and had extended the lead to 65 when MacGill removed Ramdin for 71.
Bravo, who was bowled around his legs late in the day for 113, played the dominant role while Ramdin, a former West Indies Under-19 captain in his third Test, showed the maturity and scrapping skills that excite Caribbean supporters. West Indies have brought a young team to Australia and the duo displayed a fierce desire for wide-ranging improvement after the horrible loss in Brisbane and three awful days in Hobart pushed them towards an innings defeat.
Gayle, Sarwan and Chanderpaul have each appeared in more than 50 Tests, but they have been unable to cope with Australia after a succession of heavy losses and have sustained their poor individual returns. Following 16 years of dominance England discovered new faces were necessary to conquer Australia. West Indies have stumbled on a similar formula boosted by their opponents' blasé belief that a four-day Test was a formality.