|Darren Bravo - how good will he be?|
It hurt. It should. The best of them hurt the worst. Brian Lara, for all his brilliance and ability to take the game away in a session, never hurt enough. If he had, he might have been better than Sobers, better than Tendulkar, better than that murderous little bloke who played for Australia.
Will Bravo be better than Lara? Time will tell but he has the same shot making flair and the same love of big scores ... and he hurts more when he makes mistakes.
Australia batted on for most of the morning session, captain Michael Clarke content to let the innings exhaust. Mike Hussey left early, Sammy getting his third catch, this time low at slip of Shane Shillingford. Mitchell Starc again showed he needs to bat one spot higher, with his second handy innings of the match, with a spattering of boundaries, including one way over long on off Shillingford. Harris played an up and under from an attempted sweep of Deonarine and was caught by Carlton Baugh. Ben Hilfenhaus has listened too much to Justin Langer and tried to play like a batsman and instead was Shillingford's tenth victim of the match, caught brilliantly at silly point by Kraigg Brathwaite. Nathan Lyon added 22 for the last wicket with Starc but Kemar Roach finished it with the second new ball, angling in at Starc from around the wicket and knocking over the castle.
370 was always going to ask questions the West Indies couldn't answer but they ha the advantage of batting on the pitch at its best. Still spinning, the bounce had become more even and less pronounced and the Australians would rely heavily on Michael Clarke's tactical acumen. Australia still bowls to a plan as they did in the days of John Buchanan, the architect of such an approach but its not something set in concrete any more. Clarke knows the modelling for each batsman and the manner in which consensus has determined to use each bowler but that's it. On the field, he modifies five or six or more plans according to his gut. In this, he follows in the footsteps of the best captains Australia has had - Benaud, Chappelli and Taylor - and stands apart from the years of stultified, rigid game plans which were followed regardless of circumstance by Ricky Ponting: a fine player, a leader by playing example but a lousy captain. His record reflects the weakness off opposition teams, the luck he had to have Warne, McGrath, Gilchrist, Langer and Hayden in the team he captained and not his tactical ability. Captaining from my lounge room, it was always a good bet to throw the ball to Warne and McGrath.
|Powell bowled by Clarke for 24|
Clarke struck again in his fifth over, walking boldly through the gate which Keiran Powell left wide open as he aimed an ambitious drive at a ball that was always going to turn into his stumps.
Shiv Chanderpaul joined a very determined Darren Bravo and by tea, they had stopped the floundering and had West Indies sailing again. They had raised their fifty partnership of 89 deliveries - extremely quick by the standards of this match and much of the series. Chanderpaul's scoring rate in his first 30 runs was hovering around sixty and the ground at Roseau were singing and dancing. Clarke had added Shane Watson and Dave Warner to the bowling list, seven having been tried inside the first 40 overs.
After tea, the batsmen set about the task of building a partnership to gain self-respect but in doing so, they gradually gained the respect of the opposition and even senior players in the commentary box. Chanderpaul played everything late and from well back inside his crease but he pushed firmly into gaps and refused to let the Australians dictate to him. His stroke play was so late that Geoff Lawson described it a almost posthumous. At the other end, Bravo played when he had to, picking off less runs that the more experienced Chanderpaul but if the Windsor Park pitch was a school, the youngster appeared to be paying the most attention to the lessons. Bowler after bowler, used in irritatingly short spells by Clarke, attacked in just the right spots. Bravo defended, occasionally eking singles, whilst Chanderpaul watched the ball until right under his eyes and then forced the ball away. It was a reversal of what might have been expected of them.
|Chanderpaul out for a second fifty|
The Australian performance was just as professional as anything in the past twelve months. How far they have come and what difference there is among the personnel? Clarke lead wonderfully well today, although the day will come when the constant bowling changes will backfire. Guys like Hilfenhaus and Harris need long spells to drop into a rhythm and strangle the scoring rate. Wade worries me. He's talented but erratic and his wicketkeeping isn't as good as Brad Haddin's, even though the former keeper had declined in his last twelve months. He dives too much. Steve Rixon would be reminding him that your feet do the majority of the work to get to the ball. Rod Marsh would make the same point. The best keepers have all been good divers but only on the impossible catches and after using their feet to get into position. Ian Healy was the best example of recent keepers. Wade also rises from his crouch too early. He follows the trend of modern keepers to use a helmet and in the main, it makes their skills diminish. Pre-2000, keepers had to sharpen their skills and back themselves on the tough tracks.
Then again, I'm no fan of helmets and shin pads for close in fielders, believing it gives them an unfair advantage. If you roll the dice in there, you should take your chances.
Not much left in this match now. The Windies will do well to get past lunch and the Australians will wrap up the series 2-0 and go to clear third on the ICC rankings.