Aussies take first day honours despite Ponting roughing up from Bajan bowling
The West Indies let themselves down on day one of the final Test at Perth and Australia duly took control. The hosts posted 339 for 3 – the fourth highest first day score at the WACA.
Simon Katich – for the second time in his career – fell heartbreakingly short of a century when he was caught at square leg on 99. It was also the second time he was dismissed in the 90s in this series – a series during which no Australian has yet reached triple figures.
Michael Hussey – not out on 81 – may well change that on day two as he and another Western Australia man – Marcus North on 23 – took Australia to the close. The other significant contribution with the bat came from Katich’s opening partner, Shane Watson, whose 89 followed up his 96 in the Adelaide draw.
Two more scores which barely missed the three figure mark. If it is a curse, Hussey – a man who needs big runs if only to keep over-reacting critics quiet – will want to break it.
Watson though should have made just seven. He was dropped early on by no less than captain, Chris Gayle, at first slip off the fiery Kemar Roach who once again showcased his hostility resulting in the other captain – Ricky Ponting – needing to make a trip to the hospital for what was explained as precautionary X-rays. In fast bowlers books though, a trip to the hospital is a trip to the hospital just as blood is blood.
The psychological effect had been properly registered. Roach greeted Ponting with fire and brimstone when arrived at the crease with the score 132 for 1 following Watson’s eventual dismissal – edging the very Roach this time to Denesh Ramdin.
The Barbadian pacer quickly aimed a short ball at Ponting’s body and connected flush on his elbow as the Aussie captain essayed an inadequate evasive manoeuvre. Ponting, usually not uncomfortable against the fastest of bowling, tried to display a brave face but required medical attention – thrice – to ease the pain. Shortly thereafter, another vicious short ball slammed into his left side and caused yet more pain. Ponting was caught by Roach flinching like a battered middleweight boxer being pummelled in the 9th round rather than a fresh batsman eager for runs.
He attempted to soldier on but the pain was more than he could contend with and – wincing after every stroke – he tossed in the white flag and headed for the dressing room en route to hospital. He left the scene on 23 but with no broken bones or other serious damage will return to bat and another showdown with Roach will light up the WACA once again.
In the meantime, Hussey trooped on before his home crowd, taking nine fours off the bowling, one less than Katich and six less than Watson who reacted to being dropped with aggressive strokeplay.
Dropping Watson was not the only West Indian fielding infraction on the day. Roach fluffed a throw to Ramdin which should have caught Katich metres short of his ground. The left hander was then on 80, then two runs later, Travis Dowlin (in for the injured Adrian Barath) at forward short leg spilled a catch off left arm sky-scraping spinner, Sulieman Benn.
After the incidents, Katich must have felt that a hundred was his for the taking no matter what but – eager to bring up his ton – he picked out Roach at square leg before hurrying back to the pavilion unable to mask a combination of anger and disappointment.
In each session, the Aussies added over 100 runs; by lunch they had 106 (without loss); at tea the score was 217 (for 1) and another 122 was added in the final session.
The Windies would not mind the runs but they needed to produce more on a ground which – on average for the 37 Tests played there – allows 8 wickets on the first day. On 14 occasions, the side batting first was all out before the end of day one. Such are the offerings of the Perth pitch.
Curiously, Roach (13-0-67-1) seemed to have been under-bowled as the combination of Benn and Narsingh Deonarine’s left arm spin operated in tandem for most of the final session. In that session, Roach bowled just a solitary over towards the end of the day’s play. Hussey, more than any of the other batsmen, capitalized on the absence of searing pace, nursing his way to a second fifty of the series.
Perhaps Gayle is saving Roach exclusively for Ponting, but his is only one wicket when all the counting is done. In the final session when Roach could have made Hussey and North uncomfortable, Gayle preferred the services of debutant Gavin Tonge (13-0-65-0) and the more frugal Ravi Rampaul (14-4-38-0) along with the Benn/Deonarine spin duo.
Deonarine – playing in place of the injured Shivnarine Chanderpaul – accounted for the only failure in the Aussie batting line up. He had Michael Clarke caught by Gayle for 11 as his 18 overs cost 52 runs. Benn sent down 19 overs for 61 runs and took the one wicket.
The pitch’s offering is not modest, it is for the Windies to rebound and hold Australia under 500 if their captain’s wish for a series-levelling win is not to dissipate.