West Indies play a Test at Bellerive Oval for the first time on Thursday and it is a sign of how far they have fallen in the eyes of Australian administrators. This series is only the third three-Test affair in the 75 years of West Indian visits - the first two were in the late 70s and early 80s when self preservation and trips from England and Pakistan were excuses for abbreviation - and Shivnarine Chanderpaul's squad have been shuffled down the side-streets and away from the regular big-name stages of the SCG and MCG.
Bellerive Oval, with river frontage and a capacity of 15,000, is a beautiful ground that deserves regular Test fixtures instead of a couple of Australia A matches each summer and an ODI involving both touring teams. But in the stadium's six-game history as the country's sixth-choice venue a Test appointment means an unfortunate drop in the opposition's status. Only Sri Lanka, New Zealand and Pakistan have played in Hobart, with Australia winning four times and drawing twice when rain cut short both New Zealand matches.
Nothing this West Indian side displayed in Brisbane, where they lost by 379 runs in four days, gave any indication that cutting the series to three matches following the 5-0 drubbing in 2000-01 was the wrong decision. The reduction has reportedly upset the visitors and perhaps the low-key surrounds of Hobart will provide another spur on a tour that started with a convincing performance against Queensland before drooping against Australia and Victoria.
Bowling remains the crucial problem of a Test team the ICC rates higher than only Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, as the batsmen are capable of bursting into growth at any time despite laying dormant at the Gabba. Discipline remains a big issue and the support staff must mirror the lead of Corey Collymore, who nagged constantly at Australia's batsmen during the first Test. In the lead-up to the series the phrase "get the ball in the right areas" was mentioned religiously but failed to translate from mouth to hand as short balls were replaced by full, wide or even shorter ones.
The highlights from the tour game at Junction Oval in Melbourne, where Brad Hodge confirmed he would make his Test debut with an-almost-run-a-ball 177and Victoria registered 571, showed nothing had changed. This pacy attack is not like its 20th century predecessors who could intimidate and dismantle opposition orders. Fidel Edwards, Daren Powell and probably Dwayne Bravo will need to improve dramatically alongside Collymore on a pitch often compared to a road and usually suiting the batsmen.
One opening for West Indies is Australia's plans have again been hindered and four players in the squad have played fewer than five Tests. Shane Watson's shoulder injury brings Andrew Symonds a chance and Justin Langer's problem rib gives Michael Hussey the bonus of a second match as fill-in after falling to two miscued horizontal bat shots on his debut.
Nathan Bracken, who wiped out West Indies' second innings with Brett Lee at the Gabba, is likely to miss out as Australia push for the Shane Warne-Stuart MacGill combination for the first time away from Sydney in a home summer away since 1998. Warne has 24 wickets at 19.20 in five matches at Bellerive while MacGill should play his first on a surface expected to help the slow men as the match continues.
Australia will be judging their new line-up but can be confident with their novice changes as the experienced core of Hayden, Ponting, McGrath and Warne all performed strongly in the series-opener. Their opponents face a different group of challenges that could determine the length of future tours as well as gauging the success of the current one.
Australia (probable) 1 Matthew Hayden, 2 Michael Hussey, 3 Ricky Ponting, 4 Michael Clarke, 5 Brad Hodge, 6 Adam Gilchrist, 7 Andrew Symonds, 8 Shane Warne, 9 Brett Lee, 10 Glenn McGrath, 11 Stuart MacGill.
West Indies (probable) 1 Chris Gayle, 2 Devon Smith, 3 Ramnaresh Sarwan, 4 Brian Lara, 5 Shivnarine Chanderpaul, 6 Marlon Samuels, 7 Denesh Ramdin, 8 Dwayne Bravo, 9 Daren Powell, 10 Corey Collymore, 11 Fidel Edwards.