Another frustrating defeat for the West Indies. After a first day in which they were, at worst, level-pegging, the joint inability to bowl out the tail or bat with any sort of conviction led to Australia setting a huge target. Despite a flourish from DJ Sammy the West Indies were never going to chase it down and the visitors emerged as comfortable winners, both in this game and the series as a whole.
Two steps forward and two steps back for the West Indies. Once again there were moments where they looked like competing, followed by some awful batting, terrible bowling and what we’ll politely call misguided captaincy. It all adds up to another case of wondering what could have been.
The main problem for the hosts in this game was the batting. A first innings score of just over 200 was nowhere near good enough. Again the top order was blown away and while Shivnarine Chanderpaul did his thing, no-one else seemed prepared to dig in alongside him. Darren Bravo was a particular disappointment – we can’t really picture Brian Lara getting out to David Warner’s gentle legspin.
With the ball the West Indies were actually okay. Shane Shillingford bowled very well, picking up ten wickets for his efforts, and was well supported by Kemar Roach and Narsingh Deonarine. There’s no doubt that this is the West Indies’ strength at the moment – Sunil Narine will surely find himself in the team at some point while Devendra Bishoo remains a decent prospect. Add in Fidel Edwards and Ravi Rampaul and there’s definitely a decent bowling unit there somewhere.
Of course, we’re also forgetting about all-rounder Darren Sammy, who continues to divide opinions. If he wasn’t captain would he be in the team? His bowling has had its moments in the past – 61 wickets at less than 31 isn’t too shabby – but this series didn’t see many of them (5 wickets at 41). And with the bat we’re less convinced. Fine in T20 cricket, but not really good enough for the Test arena. Add in some simple catches being put down and some shoddy captaincy (particularly on the second morning) and you have yourself a real conundrum. After all, who else could do the job? Would they even want to?
This was a job well done for Michael Clarke, with his side producing a patient, organised performance, exactly the sort of thing required against a side prone to implode. There are still clearly issues with the batting – only Nathan the Lion and Rolf Harris averaged over 40 in the series, strangely enough – but Matt Wade’s hundred was a key innings, both in this match and in condemning Brad Haddin to a lifetime of working for Channel Nine.
Both Warner (in the first innings) and Ed Cowan (in the second) made half-centuries without pushing on to anything more significant. To be fair to them, it was that sort of game, with seven players making it 50 and only Wade to three figures but it still leaves question marks over the top order. The opening pair plus Shane Watson at three have now played 51 Tests between them, with just four hundreds. Hayden/Langer/Ponting they ain’t.
Lyon’s performance with the ball was fairly encouraging, but he remains a work in progress and was clearly outbowled by his skipper in the second innings while the seamers took something of a back seat. It means that Australia didn’t really learn much about their bowling that they didn’t already know. They continue to look like a decent unit, but with nobody particularly standing out.
This was Australia’s last Test match until they welcome South Africa down under towards the end of the year. Instead thoughts will turn towards the limited overs game, with five pointless ODIs in England and the World T20. Unless of course, you’re Ricky Ponting, in which case thoughts turn towards making hilariously bad adverts.
No, we don’t know what happened to his voice either.
For the West Indies, there’s just time to chuck as many jumpers as they can find into a bag before they head off to face monsoon season in England. The squad for that series has been announced and includes only one spinner (Shillingford) and, unsurprisingly, no Kraigg Brathwaite or Carlton Baugh. Denesh Ramdin and Marlon Samuels will replace them.
Realistically, only the weather can save the West Indies from a crushing defeat in the Test series. The series after that, when they host New Zealand, should give a much better view of where they currently stand.