Windies fightback gallantly but have promises to keep, and miles to go…
They may not always get the results to emphasize the point but this is a West Indies team with a new mentality. Barring the forgettable episode in the Brisbane Test, the team seems keen to assert itself as one which refuses to roll over in the face of pressure – self-imposed, insurmountable or otherwise.
At the start of day three, honours were even with Australia having declared on 520 for 7 and the Windies response chugging along at 214 for 2. Through a combination of injudicious strokeplay, a lack of adequate commitment and a maiden five wicket haul from pacer, Doug Bollinger, the West Indies crumbled to 312 all out. They lost their last six wickets for 27 runs in the space of 43 minutes. It reminded fans of what Windies teams of recent vintage had become expert at executing.
Australia had a lead of 208 but captain, Ricky Ponting, refused to enforce the follow-on, opting instead to pile on the runs. It was an error and he and his team were made to pay.
Dwayne Bravo delivered a spell of clever and controlled medium fast bowling during which he hung the ball outside off stump and invited expansive drives. The Australians resisted initially but were lured into the trap. Two of them – Michael Clarke and Marcus North – edged Bravo to Denesh Ramdin and a third – Mitchell Johnson – drove him to Brendan Nash at point.
The end result on day three was that Australia were tottering at 137 for 8. Their position though is enhanced by that 208 run first innings lead which means they are a substantial 345 runs ahead.
However with just two wickets in hand, the Windies have forced themselves back into contention when previously they might have surrendered meekly.
Bravo was not alone in his effort. Sulieman Benn was able to extract bounce which resulted in two wickets of his own for 26 runs as Bravo’s three cost 34.
Ravi Rampaul had made the first breakthrough when he bowled Simon Katich for 10 and Gavin Tonge picked up his first Test wicket trapping top scorer, Shane Watson, lbw for 30.
Ricky Ponting – retired hurt for 23 in the first innings – appeared way down at number nine and did not avoid another Kemar Roach working over. This time though, instead of being hit on the elbow and about the body, the Australian captain surrendered when he patted a short ball to Travis Dowlin at forward short leg. It was a rather regrettable way to see the great Australian batsman dismissed. His wicket was the eighth and it was the 16th wicket on a day when 235 runs were scored.
The Windies started in the morning by losing Ramnaresh Sarwan (42) to the second ball of the day. His was the second of Bollinger’s 5 wickets for 70 runs. Narsingh Deonarine (18) followed when he drove Johnson to Watson at cover.
Bravo made 24 but became Bollinger’s third – edging to wicketkeeper Brad Haddin and initiating the six wicket slide to bring the end. Nash resisted but fell six short of a half century while the last five batsmen all remained in single digits.
Nathan Hauritz took 3 for 66 and Johnson – who was pulverised by Chris Gayle’s fifth fastest Test century the day before – ended with 2 for 92.
Clearly preferring to bowl than have the follow-on enforced, the Windies approached their task purposefully and stuck to their game plan to restrict scoring and tempt the Australian batsmen into added risk if they desired quick runs.
It was a plan which worked beautifully – thanks in the main – to Bravo’s perseverance.
There are yet two days remaining and the Windies will have to spend as little time as possible on the final day wrapping up the host’s innings before applying similar perseverance in their run chase if they are to gift their clearly inspirational captain the series levelling win he has challenged them to deliver for their fans.
The team’s newly developing desire to battle until the very end may have been inspired by their straight-talking captain, it may have been inspired by a collective will to represent their region with pride. Whatever it is, the fact that they are fighting will please their fans and keep their critics at bay. However the job is yet done and the slightly altered words of the American Pulitzer Prize winning poet, Robert Frost, may serve well as a guide for the rest of the match: the woods are lovely, dark, and deep but we have promises to keep, and miles to go before we sleep.