9 December 2009.
The West Indies can take considerable pride from their performance in Adelaide. Ordinarily, moral victories are little use to man or beast. A draw is a draw is a draw.
Moreover, Australia has retained the Frank Worrell Trophy and flies to Perth one-up in the series. All things considered, though, it was an impressive effort from a beleaguered visiting team playing not only for its reputation but its existence.
After the strikes and no-shows and disputes, even ardent supporters had lost patience with Caribbean cricket. Brisbane confirmed their worst fears. And then came Adelaide. It’s been a most startling comeback. The West Indies may eventfully look back on this match as a missed opportunity. A more confident side might have pressed harder. Mostly they were thwarted because their two leading bowlers did not take any wickets in the second innings.
Kemar Roach gave every ounce of strength in his body but could not quite summon the searing pace seen in the first dig. Sulieman Benn toiled away accurately but had lost a little of his nip. Both sweated buckets on the third day and it took a toll. Roach is a youngster building his stamina and learning his craft. Benn is not accustomed to the pressures associated with bowling out a team on the final afternoon. At times he brings to mind an English politician named Wedgwood Benn whose sanity was periodically questioned but whose courage was never doubted.
Chris Gayle at the Prime Ministers 11 Cricket match in Canberra 2010.
Photo ©: Flickr.com / naparazzi
In hindsight, Chris Gayle may conclude that he could have declared his innings 10 minutes before it reached its natural conclusion. All those humiliations away from home persuaded him to delay. On the road, the West Indies have won only three times in 40 attempts. No wonder they did not want to roll the dice. The bowlers may reflect upon balls that shaved the stumps, appeals that went unanswered, lifted shots that eluded teammates. Fieldsmen will rue missed run-outs and shots that landed a foot short of waiting hands. Such are the thrills, spills and frustrations of fifth days as one side shuts up shop and the other hammers on the door.
But let us not cavil. The West Indies surpassed themselves. Crushed in Brisbane, the visitors gave their opponents a severe scare. Throughout the denouement, Gayle was able to place almost his entire side in catching positions. No one saw that coming. The West Indies effort was epitomised by Dwayne Bravo. Determined to leave his mark upon the contest, seeking victory with every fibre, he unleashed a committed and clever spell that brought three wickets and might have produced a handful. Besides, he dived to take a fine catch and pressed for victory until it was no longer attainable.
Now the visitors need to tap into the same spirit in Perth. Those lower-order runs told the tale. The fielding confirmed the point. Gayle’s captaincy reinforced the impression. His batting drove the nail home. The West Indies have rallied. But one cicada does not make a summer. Gayle and company need to report to Perth ready to rumble. It won’t be easy. Spared latterly in Adelaide, Gayle’s back-foot game will be rigorously examined.
Australia could take satisfaction from the saving of the match. Otherwise, gains were few and far between. Shane Watson batted capably at the top of the order and contributed handily with the ball. Doug Bollinger breathed a few flames on a mostly low-burning attack. Michael Clarke held firm. Mitchell Johnson again took wickets even when he was struggling. Some of the old-ball bowling was presentable. Otherwise it was a lacklustre display. It’s hard to assess the strength of a team that also waxed and waned in England. Clearly, though, it is no longer a mean machine.
Ricky Ponting‘s captaincy lacked aggression. His disregard for slips meant that several significant edges went untouched. Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Gayle counted among the escapees. Likewise, Australia pushed its field back early on the fourth day, allowing Gayle to collect singles calmly, discouraging him from taking risks. Australia played a waiting game and it did not work. Nor was Bollinger given the expected load on that vital fourth day. At one stage he was not called to the crease for nearly three hours yet he was the most threatening bowler.
Australia has plenty of headaches. Peter Siddle’s injury puts his place in jeopardy. Injuries have been hindering Australia, and Simon Katich’s wonky back is merely the latest handicap.
The middle-order batting lacked authority because both left-handers were scratchy. Neither spinner took a second-innings wicket, or looked likely to do so. After the commanding win at the Gabba it may seem harsh to mention these failings. On the other hand, Australia has lost three of its past five series. Complacency is not appropriate.