Australian skipper Michael Clarke declared his side’s second innings much earlier than anticipated, and Mitchell Starc then sent back the struggling West Indian openers in the first over itself as the hosts stared at defeat on day four itself. West Indies ended day three at 16 for 2, still needing 376 to win, with two whole day’s play left. Earlier, Clarke declared the Aussie second innings after they had raced to 212 for 2 in in 65 overs, with the top three Shaun Marsh, David Warner and Steven Smith all compiling half-centuries, leaving West Indies with a target of 392.
Starc, as he has often done, got the early breakthroughs in the big chase. Kraigg Brathwaite was gone without scoring as he dragged a full and wide delivery on to the stumps. A couple of deliveries later Rajendra Chandrika added to his miserable debut, edging the bowler to gully. He thus became the second West Indian after Alf Valentine to bag a pair on Test debut. West Indies could have been three down had Darren Bravo’s lbw decision not been reversed by the third umpire. The Nathan Lyon delivery seemed to be going over the top of the stumps, only marginally.
Earlier in the day, the Aussie openers got back into form with patient half-centuries. West Indies’ fast bowlers bowled well, with this time Jerome Taylor getting good support from Kemar Roach. But, David Warner and Shaun Marsh, who failed in the opening Test and the first innings here, were determined to make an impact. They treated the bowlers on merit, and only played aggressive strokes when the ball was there to be hit. The first partnership of the pair came up in the 23th over.
It was only with Veerasammy Permaul’s introduction that the scoring rate picked up. The openers used their feet very well against the struggling bowler, driving him through the cover region. While Warner also reverse swept Permaul with ease, Marsh cut and lofted him with ease, even hitting one for six. The openers had now settled in, and were looking in no trouble when, against the run of play, Warner was dismissed as he mistimed a pull off Kemar Roach. Post tea, Marsh fell for 69, when was caught at midwicket off Permaul’s bowling.
At one stage, it seemed West Indies might have to follow-on, but Jason Holder once again proved his worth with a ball, smashing a belligerent 82 not out from 63 balls, featuring in a ninth wicket partnership of 77 with Roach, whose contribution was 7 from 35 balls. Holder smashed 12 fours and 2 sixes in his whirlwind knock, but it wasn’t all slam-bang cricket. Holder combined good defence with some smart hitting as West Indies managed to successfully avoid the follow on. They were eventually dismissed for 220 as Josh Hazlewood finished with five. In spite of Holder’s heroics, West Indies were clearly struggling to save the Test.
-- By A Cricket Correspondent