Third Test preview: West Indies v Australia
Australia are looking for one final push to get themselves over the line after a long summer of cricket when they take on West Indies in Dominica.
Seven months and 13 Tests into his tenure as Australia captain, Michael Clarke can reflect with pride on the way in which he has guided his side through a tricky transition period.
When they were bowled out for 47 in Cape Town it looked as if Australia may have a long way to go before they could challenge for the top spot in the world rankings again, but a series draw in South Africa and a 4-0 thumping of India – as well as a 1-0 win in Sri Lanka last year – has given plenty to be cheerful about.
Nevertheless defeat in Dominica this week would derail Australia's progress at an unfortunate time – they won't play another Test until South Africa visit in November. And given that the West Indies held the upper hand over the first three days in Barbados and then threatened to give their visitors a run for their money in the drawn second Test, a home victory is far from impossible.
Australia will therefore need one big final push to get themselves over the line after a long summer of cricket. Their options have shrunk slightly after Peter Siddle and James Pattinson were forced home by injury, but Ryan Harris is waiting in the wings after being rested for the second Test, and Mitchell Starc should be excited about another crack at Test cricket.
The left-armer is likely to come in for Michael Beer, who bowled well in Trinidad but could be surplus to requirements as a second spinner since Australia expect the pitch to aid fast bowlers.
The top six has a fairly settled feel about it, but Ed Cowan and Ricky Ponting could do with some runs in this match. The duo are not only the more vulnerable members of that batting unit, but are also the only two Test specialists and face a six-month hiatus from international cricket after this match.
The statistics do not suggest that the West Indies have a great chance of claiming a share of the series if you consider that Australia has won every Test series between them since 1999, but the hosts have had their moments over the last couple of weeks.
Kemar Roach claimed their first ten-wicket haul since Cory Colleymore took 11 against Pakistan back in 2005, and Darren Sammy has shown his willingness to shoulder the responsibility of keeping his side in the mix.
The West Indies could be without Fidel Edwards if he fails to overcome a niggle picked up in Trinidad, but have Ravi Rampaul waiting ready to take his place.
Devendra Bishoo has been released from the squad, which ensures that Shane Shillingford will become the first Dominican to play a Test match on his home ground. Guyana batsman Assad Fudadin was added to the squad for the final Test, but looks unlikely to be utilised.
The weather played a large part in Trinidad and is threatening to do so again here with scattered showers expected throughout the five days, so some positive play might be required for either side to force a result.
<b>Last Five Head-To-Head Results</b><BR>April 2012: Second Test: Match drawn in Trinidad<BR>April 2012: First Test: Australia won by three wickets in Barbados<br>December 2009: Third Test: Australia won by 35 runs in Perth<br>December 2009: Second Test: Match drawn in Adelaide<br>December 2009: First Test: Match drawn in Adelaide
<b>Prediction</b><BR>Rain played a part in West Indies' draw with India here last year and it wouldn't be surprising to see a similar scenario developing over the next five days. Michael Clarke may be one of the more positive captains around – if not <i>the</i> most positive skipper in international cricket at present – but even he may be tempted to settle for a <b>draw</b> rather than give the West Indies a sniff if it comes down to it.
<b>Probable Teams</b><br><i>West Indies:</i> Adrian Barath, Kraigg Brathwaite, Kirk Edwards, Darren Bravo, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Narsingh Deonarine, Carlton Baugh (wicketkeeper), Darren Sammy (captain), Ravi Rampaul, Kemar Roach, Shane Shillingford
<i>Australia:</i> David Warner, Ed Cowan, Shane Watson, Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke (captain), Michael Hussey, Matthew Wade (wicketkeeper), Ryan Harris, Mitchell Starc, Ben Hilfenhaus, Nathan Lyon.
<b>Dates:</b> 23-27 April <br><b>Morning session:</b> 10:00 – 12:00 (14:00 – 16:00 GMT)<br><b>Afternoon session:</b> 12:40- 14:40 (16:40 – 18:40 GMT)<br><b>Evening session:</b> 15:00 – 17:00 (20:00 – 22:00 GMT)
<b>On-field umpires:</b> Marais Erasmus and Tony Hill<br><b>Third umpire:</b> Ian Gould<br><b>Match referee:</b> Jeff Crowe
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