First Test Match


At Brisbane, November 22, 23, 24, 25, 26. Australia won by 123 runs. Toss; West Indies. Test debuts: M. T. G. Elliott, M. S. Kasprowicz.

Campbell, whose previous highest score on the tour was 22, made a last-day century and almost saved this match for West Indies. But Bevan, who had never taken a Test wicket as a spinner, took three - including Campbell's - to win it. Meanwhile, Lara and Warne, the celestials in whose hands the match was thought to rest, were by their usual standards little more than bystanders. Thus was established the series' theme: a predictable enough end achieved by one entirely predictable means or agents.

Doubts clouded the prelude. Taylor and Warne were still recovering from off-season surgery and their confrères from a disastrous tour of India. Australia had two new caps, Elliott, the Victorian left-hander, and Kasprowicz, the Queensland pace bowler. Michael Slater's omission caused a sensation. For their part, West Indies had just lost to an Australian XI by ten wickets and were apprehensive about starting the series with back-to-back Tests.

The Gabba pitch was unusually moist, which made Australians 11-hour 479 all the more commendable. Mediocrity threatened when Elliott was caught behind off a loose shirt-sleeve for a debut duck, and later when Bevan was caught at slip first ball to re-open speculation about his competence against short bowling, and leave Australia a precarious 196 for five.

Ponting and Taylor made good the first breach with 126 for the second wicket: Taylor by taking to the trenches so completely that he did not hit a boundary before lunch; Ponting, the anointed successor to David Boon at No. 3, with a spirited counter-attack that produced seven fours and a six in that time. Then Steve Waugh and Healy shared 142 for the sixth wicket and Healy batted indomitably through the rest of the innings for 161 not out. Made in just under six hours and laced with 20 fours, it was his third first-class and Test century and the highest by an Australian wicket-keeper.

West Indies' bowlers had little luck and made none. They pitched too short to both Ponting and Waugh; they should have known better in his case. Thus, for the fifth time in their last six Tests, this celebrated attack conceded more than 400 in the first innings.

Hooper, gifted and remote, made his first century against Australia and, with the combative Chanderpaul, put on 172 to rescue his side from the precipice of 77 for three. Regarded by the Australians as the best right-handed player of Warne in the world, Hooper was typically elegant until the nineties, whereupon his strokeplay became frantic with nerves. His century was literally a close-run thing - an ill-advised call, a direct hit and a judgment so fine that Hooper had to wait several minutes until third umpire Peter Parker gave him the benevolent benefit of a tiny doubt.

Immediately, the match changed. Ponting sprawled to catch Hooper from Steve Waugh, who promptly pulled his hamstring. Taylor, riding a characteristic hunch, gave the ball to Ponting, who claimed Adams, and then Chanderpaul drove at Reiffel and was caught. Warne claimed his first wicket in the 106th over and West Indies, after losing no wickets for more than four hours, lost seven in less than one hour.

Though Australia led by 202, Taylor did not enforce the follow-on: instead Australia spent a little more than two sessions augmenting that lead. Mark Waugh made a smooth half-century, Healy set about the flagging bowlers with 45 not out from just 50 balls, and there was a poignant moment when Bevan, still on a pair, edged Bishop gently to slip, where Lara dropped it.

Taylor set a target of 420 from about 120 overs, which history showed to be nearly impossible. But the bookies set a West Indian victory at an absurdly short price: Lara was bristling with shots on the fourth evening, and Warne's forefinger was an unknown quantity. In fact, Lara played an intemperate slash at Reiffel next morning, and second slip Mark Waugh took a white-hot catch in front of his face. The issue then became survival. The pitch was still largely intact, denying Warne his expected spin, but the tireless McGrath threatened constantly from around the wicket and Bevan shocked the batsmen with his bounce. Campbell stood in the breach for nearly seven hours as the others collapsed around him. With the pylons beginning to cast their evening shadows, he played wearily at straightening ball from Bevan and his brave, vain fight was finished.

Man of the Match: I. A. Healy. Attendance: 51,327

Close of play: First day Australia 285-5 (S. R. Waugh 48, I. A. Healy 47*); Second day, West Indies 61-2 (B. C. Lara 19*, C. L. Hooper 4*); Third day, Australia 8-0 (M. T. G. Elliott 2*, M. A. Taylor 4*); Fourth day, West Indies 89-1 ( S. L. Campbell 28*, B. C. Lara 29*).

© John Wisden & Co