Bowling debacle in 1st Test Down Under as the tourists fail with the ball but impress with the bat
Kraigg Braithwaite led by example with a pair of determined knocks, as the West Indies were annihilated by 164 runs in the 1st Test on Sunday (4 December). Perth’s first Test since the 2019-20 season, when Australia hosted New Zealand in a day-night game, was a one-sided affair with the tourists set a record target of 498 to win.
In their first meeting in just under seven years, Australia dominated from the start inside the Optus Stadium to reel off the runs with aplomb on a spicy wicket. The Windies’ bowling attack was arguably the most lame ever in a Test, allowing Australia to display fireworks at the crease.
In the end the hosts waited for Steve Smith to reach an unbeaten double century before they declared to end the agony for the out-of-sorts Windies. Yet it was Marnus Labuschagne who finished top scorer with 204, hitting four more runs than Smith, as the explosive Australians halted at 598-4.
The West Indies were whittled out for 283, with Bajan Brathwaite’s dogged 64 the highlight of an overall poor response, and Australia sensed a swift win.
Labuschagne bagged an unbeaten 104 as the hosts rattled up the runs to declare at lunchtime on the fourth day at 182-2. Yet they didn’t manage to attack the Windies with the ball as they had expected.
Braithwaite was the thorn in their side, as the visitors were set a target of 498 runs from 154 overs to register an improbable success.
The Windies held their nerve with the opening partnership, which was not broken until Guyana’s Shivnarine Chanderpaul was clean bowled by Mitchell Starc for 45.
The Windies wobbled but ended the day at 192-3, with Barbados’ Shamarh Brooks and Jamaica’s Jermaine Blackwood back in the pavilion cheaply.
Seeking a further 306 runs to triumph, Braithwaite battled his way to an unbeaten 101 as his partners at the crease struggled. But the Windies didn’t crumble after the skipper was dismissed for 110 on the final day.
Antigua’s fast bowler Alzarri Joseph impressed far more with the bat than the ball. He arrived to join Bajan all rounder Royston Chase in the 85th over with the Windies staring at a hefty defeat at 233-7. He smashed a trio of sixes to hit 45 before being clean bowled by Travis Head to end their eighth-wicket stand of 82.
Chase was not quite as cavalier with the bat but bashed a six. His steady knock of 55 ended after being caught at deep square leg by Starc off Nathan Lyon to leave the Windies in severe trouble at 333-9.
Bajan pacer Kemar Roach made the trek to the middle, only to be clean bowled for a golden duck by off-spinner Lyon to end the Windies’ resilient fightback and register impressive figures of 6-128.
Braithwaite, who has now notched 11 Test centuries, will turn his attention to this week’s final Test at Adelaide. His team can put runs on the board although their pace attack was woefully off the mark.
Once the bowlers are firing on all cylinders they do have the potential to cause major problems. However, it appears that it would take a colossal upturn in fortunes for the West Indies to bag their first Test success in Australia since 1997.
1st Test | Australia beat WI by 164 runs
Australia 598-4 dec & 182-2 dec
WI 283 & 333
2nd Test | Adelaide Oval, Adelaide (8-12 December)
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