Aussies triumph in fading light
Australia shook career-best figures from a part-time bowler under dying light to win the first Test by three wickets in Barbados on Wednesday.
Australia shook career-best figures from a part-time bowler under dying light to win the first Test by three wickets in Barbados.
Slow to undo the West Indies' tail-enders through the first session of day five, the visitors left themselves a testing 192-run target – not made any easier by a rain delay after the lunch break and the fading overhead conditions late on Wednesday.
Facing 93 deliveries between them, Kemar Roach, Fidel Edwards and Devendra Bishoo, though not as fruitful on a runs front, were as defiant as fellow tail-enders Ryan Harris and Nathan Lyon were on Tuesday.
Keeping the Australians in the field for the full opening two hours of the day proved key to the Windies' bid to force a draw in a contest that had been turned on it's head the previous day.
With their hopes of picking up on a brisk pursuit scuppered by the inclement weather, the Aussies soon realised that 45 minutes of play lost to the damp conditions would count against them toward the end of the fixture. This certainly proved the case, with Ben Hilfenhaus and Harris forced to bat in entirely dim conditions en route to a tight triumph.
While it was Hilfenhaus' single stolen to mid-off that sealed the victory, the successful pursuit was made possible by Shane Watson's work at the top of the knock and Michael Hussey's determination in the middle order.
Ed Cowan will be the first to admit that he lacked fluidity, making Watson's vigil all the more important after David Warner – the one man that could have taken the game away from the Windies pretty quickly – fell early.
The left-handed Cowan endured a shoddy lack of timing and placement and holing out to midwicket for a flatfooted 30 eventually came as a veritable blessing in disguise to the Australian cause.
Watson, meanwhile, had survived to early lbw reviews to graduate to a steady enough half-century. A third Test ton was plausibly on the cards for the right-hander. Instead, he was the first of four victims in quick succession for part-time off-spinner Narsingh Deonarine.
Not finding a lot of turn nor extra bounce, Deonarine simply went about his business of churning out tight over after tight over. Having Watson perish in the deep, Cowan slog to midwicket, slipping through the defences of Ricky Ponting and luring Michael Clarke into a simple return the catch, the otherwise specialist batsman delighted in his freak haul of four for 53.
Michael Hussey, however, refused to be Deonarine's fifth scalp. Matthew Wade, though, needed a referral to have his lbw decision overturned and the slow bowler's five-for averted.
The veteran left-hander and wicketkeeper-batsman alliance of 37 inside eight overs was worth more than its runs. The time spent frustrating a Windies attack baying for a twist in the belatedly unpredictable tale all but drew the final steam from their tank.
Kemar Roach managed to end Hussey and Wade's cameos, but three runs required with three wickets in hand wasn't going to be a tough task for a quite capable Australian lower order.
Roach and Deonarine, the latter in particular, tried to delay proceedings by pulling out of their delivery strides on quite a few occasions, but the umpires were not buying their gamesmanship and allowed the game to continue despite the deteriorating light.
Although content with first blood of the three-match series, the Australians – held to a couple of drawn series in the limited-overs leg of the tour and really tested in the Test series opener – will be well aware of the challenge that awaits them in Port of Spain and beyond.
The lazy Caribbean getaway before the riches of the Indian Premier League is fast turning out to be a string of daunting days at the office.
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