WI v Australia, 1st Test, Bridgetown, 2nd day

by whyilovesport

Shivnarine Chanderpaul's 25th Test century pushed West Indies into a strong position on the second day against Australia in Barbados

I didn’t blog on day 1; but there wasn’t much to report on anyway since not much happened. It was a dour day, the run-rate at 2.5 and only 73 of the usual 90 overs were bowled; West Indies finding themselves at 3/179. The sub-story was that we dropped three catches – Siddle off his own bowling, Ponting with a dive to his right, and Watson, also in the slips. Oh, and just quietly, David Warner took his 1st Test match wicket.

This is Australia’s first Test match in more than 2 months when they wrapped up a 4-0 clean sweep of India in Adelaide. Two changes to the XI have been made from that last Test.  Matthew Wade came in to make his Test debut as wicket-keeper after Brad Haddin fled home from the touring party for personal reasons. And Shane Watson, after missing all six Tests in the home summer, returns to bat, but this time in the unfamiliar (to him) but crucial no.3 position, replacing Shaun Marsh who lost his place by virtue of bad form.

Just to give you a perspective of how polarised these two teams have been over the last decade or two, here is a stat: Of the last 19 Test matches between Australia and West Indies, Australia have won 16, West Indies just one and the other two matches have been draws. Another interesting stat is that only three members of the Australia squad – Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke and Michael Hussey – have played Tests in the Caribbean before.

Anyway, onto the actual play on the second day. The West Indies went from 3/179 to 9/449 before they decided to declare. They were snail-like on day 1 but captain Darren Sammy was highly entertaining to watch as he got the match going, blasting a fantastic 41 off 36 with some with some expansive stroke play, especially intent on going straight the ground. But the story of the day belonged to Shivnarine Chanderpaul after finishing unbeaten on 103. His style might look ugly or at least unorthodox but it sure is effective; it was a grafting knock of class from the 138-Test veteran.

A couple of things happened that don’t normally happen with the West Indies – they had the opportunity to declare (a rare privilege for them) and they were disciplined. Very rarely do you see them have their top 8 batsmen get starts but on this occasion they all got over 20 and did their best to accompany the only one that did go on to make a big score, Chanderpaul – and that is exactly how a batting innings should go! 449 is a very good score, albeit on a docile pitch offering nothing for the bowlers.

Chanderpaul has been and still is such a rock in the West Indies order, offering so much resistance and amazing concentration for such long periods of time. A 6-hour long vigil at the crease shows his steely determination and an incredible attention span. And even then, he finished unbeaten. It was his 25th Test century, which puts him outright 3rd all-time for most centuries made by a West Indian, going past Viv Richards and now only behind Brian Lara and Sir Garfield Sobers. He also went past Brian Lara to be the all-time leading run-scorer on Kensington Oval.

In reply, Australia went with a much more positive intent racing to 0/44 by stumps, still trailing by 405 runs. A draw is very likely on this pitch. What needs to happen to force a result is for Australia to pile on the runs, for all of day 3 and most of day 4 and build a big enough lead to bowl West Indies without having to bat again themselves. Of course, the other scenario is for the West Indies to strike early and bowl the Aussies on day 3 and then set a target.

Pressure is building on Nathan Lyon to perform; he went for 94 runs off his 31 overs, the most runs he’s conceded in his career. At least he didn’t go past the dreaded 100. While the pacemen were more economical, they too struggled for wickets. It’s called Test match for a reason and today was a true assessment of how discipline our bowlers can be under trying conditions after being spoiled with fantastic bowler-friendly pitches all summer at home.

Of course, from a spectator’s point-of-view, I would much rather bowler-friendly pitches since it just helps the match move on instead of being a war of attrition. It’s ironic because the pitches for the ODIs and T20s produced low scores and now it’s a batsmen’s paradise for this First Test; it really should be the opposite.  

They call the 3rd round in golf ‘moving day’. Well, Day 3 in this Test match could determine which of the three results we are heading to, because at this stage it’s anyone’s guess.