Australia has retained the Frank Worrell trophy, but not in the manner they probably would have preferred.
After an overnight declaration (the second for the match), Ponting gave his bowlers one day to skittle the Windies and win the test. Realistically, it was only ever going to end as either an Australian victory or a draw as 372 was just too much for the hosts to chase down - even on the lifeless pitch of the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium.
Things started well enough for the visitors and when Clark and Lee removed the openers and the score was on 2-19 the balance has swung towards the antipodeans. Enter Sarwan. The Windies skipper tempered his usual aggressive instincts (for the most part) and played his way to a well composed 128. Possibly more importantly, in the context of the match, he also faced 241 balls - that's 40 overs of the 93 that were bowled in total!
Morton failed again but Sarwan was again ably supported by Chanderpaul who again showed his class, contributing a disciplined 77 not out (from 180 balls) to go with his first innings century. This pair played with determination in their match-saving 143 run partnership and kept the key second session wicketless. In the final session, a bouncer from Johnson removed Sarwan (caught at gully by Hussey) and Lee had the in-form Bravo dismissed for 1. Australia sniffed victory but the keeper, Ramdin, and Chanderpaul preserved their wickets and the day's play ened with only five West Indians (three falling to Lee) back in the shed.
So, a drawn match (the first between the two sides since 1995)- enough for Australia to hold onto the trophy, and some very good signs of fight from the Windies. Ponting, in giving his bowlers only one day to take ten wickets, underestimated his opponents and paid the price while Sarwan played a real captain's knock and Chanderpaul, who richly deserved his man-of-the-match award, remains very much the anchor of the Caribbean batting lineup.
MacGill, despite bowling well, went wicketless in his final hurrah on the field of honour. There is a great deal of speculation in Australia about who will take on the role of team spinner. There really is not any one solid contender, and this deficiency could trouble Australia in years to come.
On the upside, Katich looks like he is recovering well from his rib injury and all the other bowlers are looking as fit as ever. Brett Lee continues to bowl very, very well and Stuart Clark's accuracy is something that every paceman should aspire to.
Chanderpaul has, apparently, picked up what pundits describe as a "calf niggle" but this should not rule him out of the next test.
The next and final test from this series will be played at Kensington Oval, Barbados in eight day's time to be follwed by a single 20-20 (wisely, it has been decided that less is more in this case) and a game against the University of the West Indies Chancellor's XI and then five ODIs.
Interestingly, the IPL man-of-the-series, Shane Watson, is set to head off to the Caribbean to take Hayden's place in the ODIs.
That a team with two talents such as Chanderpaul and Sarwan is rated eight in the test-playing world (edging out Zimbabwe - who curently have other problems - and Bangladesh) really does highlight the under-performance of the rest of the squad. Caribbean bowlers just do not seem to dominate innings, the upper order is fragile and the tail rarely flickers, let alone wags. Dwayne Bravo is doing well and would have to be one of the better genuine all-rounders playing today. The Windies coach, John Dyson, has his work cut out for him, but there are signs of hope.
Stay tuned to LJ - your home of cricket in the land of the shaky yen- for more coverage.
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