After an at times unbearably slow escalation of both pressure and tension, the second Test ended in a premature and wet fashion. Bringing to mind all sorts of sticky and immature analogies that a website of this calibre would never dare contemplate.
It is tempting to view the West Indian performance as an improvement over their showing in the first Test, but that would ignore the harsh fact that they simply repeated many of the mistakes they made last week in Bridgetown. Their batting was once again utterly reliant on Shivnarine Chanderpaul holding the opposition bowlers at bay for an extended period whilst everyone else failed around him. Neither the top order nor the tail offered much in the way of resistance. Narsingh Deonarine showed far more patience than he displayed in either innings of the first Test, before he threw away his wicket a moment of madness that precipitated a collapse of 19/6, and effectively destroyed any chance the Windies had of winning the game.
With the ball there were some promising signs however. Shane Shillingford was able to coax a surprising amount of turn and bounce out of the pitch on the first two days, and succeeded in making David Warner look all of the limited cricketer quite a few outside of the Channel Nine commentary box suspect he is. Kemar Roach was the real success story however, bowling with pace and aggression and deservedly taking ten wickets for the match. His spell in the second innings, when he removed both Warner and Shane Watson in the one over, stands out in particular.
As always with West Indian cricket these days, however, much of the good work in one area was undone with comedic ineptness elsewhere. This time it was the fielding that was largely shambolic. Darren Sammy in particular had a performance to forget in the field. Firstly there was his inexplicable decision to withdraw an appeal against Warner in the very first over of the game, an appeal that should have stood as the umpires verdict of out was correct, even if the mode of dismissal was not, whilst secondly, in the fourth over of the second innings, he shelled the simplest of chances at first slip. Sammy’s captaincy is already the source of a great deal of criticism, and he can hardly afford such glaring blunders in the field. To pile on the misery, wicketkeeper Carlton Baugh also managed to botch a stumping attempt on Michael Hussey that we suspect even Kamran Akmal would have been ashamed of.
Perhaps upset by the late withdrawals of Ryan Harris and Peter Siddle, the Australian performance was a disjointed affair. After winning the toss and batting on a pitch that was widely tipped to break up early, they had the perfect opportunity to bat themselves into an unassailable position. Instead they lost wickets regularly and only a solid partnership between Michael Hussey and James Pattinson saved them from posting a total well below par.
In an attempt to gain the initiative the new ball was handed to Michael Beer, the first time an Australian captain had opened with a spinner since 1938. Although a typically bold stroke by Clarke, the gambit was less than successful, as the West Indies eased to 230/4 late on third day. If not for Lyon’s late flurry of wickets, the tourists would have been facing a heavy first innings deficit on a wearing pitch. To be fair Lyon bowled well in removing the West Indian tail, although even after claiming his second Test pfieffer, he still has a long way to go before he convinces that he belongs on this stage. In particular we would like to see Lyon claim more wickets close to the bat, rather than as a result of mistimed lofts into the outfield.
The 54 run first innings lead obtained by the tourists ultimately proved decisive. Although the top order once again failed miserably, the Australians were able to bat themselves to safety, having largely given up on winning the game after Pattinson’s withdrawal on the fifth morning through injury. Clarke’s declaration may have been the catalyst for a grandstand finish, but rain and bad light was always going to win out in the end.
After two Tests the Australians have retained the Frank Worrell Trophy, but will be going into the final Test with a mountain of injury concerns. Both Siddle and Pattinson have already returned home, meaning that Mitchell Starc will come into the starting team, whilst Ryan Harris will also return, although he, as always, has injury concerns of his own.
For the hosts Ravi Rampaul may make an appearance in the stead of Fidel Edwards, but any further changes seem unlikely with the selectors hoping to give this unit as much opportunity as possible to gel. Although they have shown at times they can be a formidable outfit, the West Indies have been shockingly inconsistent this series so far and this next Test is their last chance to get things right before the tour of England next month.