It was another action packed day at the Gabba with Australia and West Indies playing out probably the best Test of the Aussie summer. West Indies put some a substantial run on the road despite encountering a few roadblocks along the way. Australia looks like the favourites at this point with their talismanic batter Steve Smith playing brilliantly. It’s a test much which has seen much see-saw throughout the three days. Do the West Indies have what it takes to create history by winning their first Test match in 27 years on Australian soil?
The Australian playing XI remained unchanged despite the spread of COVID in their camp. Coach Andrew McDonald and all-rounder Cameron Green tested positive for Covid on Wednesday. Green was on the team sheet however, much to the bewilderment of cricket fans.
The all-rounder from New South Wales stood apart from the rest of the team during the national anthem and fielded on his usual gully position. He even bowled in the second session. Travis Head also tested positive earlier this week. But the centurion from the first test recovered in time to make the team. Usman Khawaja took a blow to the head which forced him to retire in the first match. Two fantastic catches at the first slip indicated he was fit enough. Steve Smith will open the batting again, that means Cameron Green will be given a slot at no. 4.
West Indies made one change to the team that was comprehensively beaten by the hosts in Adelaide. 24 year old Guyanan off spinner Kevin Sinclair came to the squad in the place of left-arm orthodox bowler Gudakesh Motie. The young sensation Shamar Joseph played his second test after shining in his debut match in Adelaide. Kraigg Brathwaite leads a young side full of wonderful talents. Shamar Joseph was hurt by a yorker from Mitchell Starc and the young pace bowler could not bowl on the third day.
1. Usman Khawaja 2. Steve Smith 3. Marnus Labuschagne 4. Cameron Green 5. Travis Head 6. Mitchell Marsh 7. Alex Carey (WK) 8. Mitchell Starc 9. Pat Cummins (Cap.) 10. Nathan Lyon 11. Josh Hazlewood
1. Kraigg Brathwaite (Cap.) 2. Tagenarine Chanderpaul 3. Kirk McKenzie 4. Alick Athanaze 5. Kavem Hodge 6. Justin Greaves 7. Joshua Da Silva (WK) 8. Kevin Sinclair 9. Alzarri Joseph 10. Shamar Joseph 11. Kemar Roach
West Indies captain Kraigg Brathwaite won the toss and elected to bat first. The pitch looked green with hints of grass sprinkled all around it. Traditionally, the Gabba pitch offers pace and bounce for the quick bowlers. But once the ball gets softer, it comes into the bat nicely. The key to playing on a wicket like this is seeing off the early spell of pace bowling. The pacers may get some purchase off the wicket in the first session.
The batsmen with patience is sure to get rewarded. The average first innings score at this venue is 230 over the last 20 matches. Brathwaite may have taken the decision to bat first given the history of this ground. At the Gabba, only 27% of the matches have been won by the team batting first. But it would surely take something special to beat the World Cup champions in their own backyard.
The third day pitch looked quite flat compared with the previous two days. The ball was not zipping and the batsmen were getting enough time to put their shots away. The new ball might raise a few doubts on the batsman’s minds. But once it gets softer, it would a lot easier to play strokes all around the ground.
This is the 120th time in Test matches that these two teams are facing each other. The Australians clearly have the upper hand with 61 wins to West Indies’ 32. 25 of the matches ended in a draw. These two nations were involved in an action packed tie match six decades earlier. That game was also played in Brisbane, in the 1960-61 season.
On Australian soil, the hosts are usually the dominant force with the hosts winning 40 matches to the West Indies’ 18. The West Indies were whitewashed in the last test series involving these two teams, back in the 2022-23 season. The West Indies have failed to manage a single victory in the land down under since the turn of the century. The last time they achieved this feat was back in 1996-97.
|The second and final Test match between Australia and West Indies was played at the iconic Gabba in Brisbane.
|The game started on Saturday, 28th January, 2024 at 10:00 a.m. IST.
Captaincy & Tactics
The Windies bowlers could not make the most of the favourable bowling conditions under lights. Alzarri Joseph and Kemar Roach looked clueless in the early overs of the second innings of the Test. However they soon redressed their ways and put the hosts under pressure. The hosts reached the score of 24 before Usman Khawaja tickled one down the leg side. Then Justin Graves squared up Marnus Labuschagne and the induced edge was gobbled at the slip cordon by Kevin Sinclair. It was another spectacular catch by the man on debut.
Then Cameron Green came in and survived by the barest of margins against the West Indian bowling attack. Green was struck in the pads, but the standing umpire did not respond. The West Indians wasted a review on that. Then he edged the next ball towards the slip, but survived unscathed. The batting conditions under the lights would have been tricky for any side, but the Australians passed the ordeal impressively.
Steve Smith finally seems to be getting his mojo back after failing in the first three attempts as an opener. The champion batter middled 95% of his shots and looked comfortable while shuffling across the stumps. In contrast, Cameron Green is finding his life hard as a new no.4 in the Test arena. The West Australian looked shaky and was pinned back at his crease. Green is a player who is always willing to play the ball on the front foot.
Marnus Labuschagne showed plenty of resilience and determination to get himself back in the Australian lineup for the 2023 World Cup. The South African born batter performed impressively and posted a neat fifty in the final of the World Cup. But his most favourite format Test cricket is suddenly failing the right hander. He averages just 23.08 in this series and got out after being bamboozled by a short delivery. Perhaps fatigue is an issue after Australia has been playing regular cricket over the past five months.
Kirk Mckenzie and Alick Athanaze played some attractive shots in their innings. But both failed to get a big score as Nathan Lyon dismissed the pair before and after the dinner interval. The West Indians needed to survive the new ball from the Aussie quicks, a job that was perfectly done by them eventually. They were unscathed if not fluent in their approach. Kraigg Brathwaite was playing the anchor role perfectly, scoring just six runs from 30 deliveries.
The Windies skipper looked to break the shackles but was caught at cover by Cameron Green. Kirk McKenzie on the other hand was looking to take the attack to the Aussie pacers. He was in superlative touch and played some amazing cover drives. He eventually slowed down a notch, a decision that caused his ultimate downfall. McKenzie tried to sweep a straight delivery by Nathan Lyon but it hit his back leg.
Alick Athanaze has had a tame series compared to the huge roar around him. But on the third day, the Dominican batter showed why he is such a highly rated talent. He played several impressive shots, at different parts of the ground. He combined well with Kavem Hodge to unsettle the Australian attack after the dinner break.
Both Hodge and Justin Greaves started well, but eventually failed to make their innings count after getting out carelessly. The Windies tail-ender was unable to wag like in the first innings and an injury to Shamar Joseph meant Australia kept the target under 250.
It was a magnificent effort from the West Indians who were without one of their key bowlers Shamar Joseph. The 24 year old hailing from a remote Guyanian village was struck in the foot by a express yorker of Mitchell Starc. It was given out by the onfield umpire but later the delivery was adjudged as a no ball. Joseph eventually had to retire hurt.
Earlier in the day, the Australian quicks faced a uphill struggle against the hot and humid weather of Brisbane. Pat Cummins had to rotate them around to give them proper rest before having another go. The Aussie captain had to rely upon his veteran spinner Nathan Lyon who bowled for 23 overs in the second innings.
Nathan Lyon adjusted well according to the demand of the pitch. The finger spinner bowled a lot quicker than his usual pace and produced a sharp turn out of the surface. He ended the innings with 3 wickets to his name and conceded 42 runs in the process. He ended the resilient innings iof Alick Athanaze and induced an edge from the left hander. Steve Smith took a sharp catch at the first slip.
Josh Hazlewood was the pick of the Aussie attack with three magnificent spells. The tall bowler was hitting the right channels regularly and made it harder for the West Indians to put it away. He was economical with 23 runs conceded from 14 overs. Hazlewood’s speciality of finding the corridor of uncertainty regularly was on show once again. He along with Mitchell Starc sweeped up the tail in quick time to put the Australians ahead in the game.
The Windies bowling looked tame and the couldn’t make the most out of favourable conditions. The Australians were batting under lights in a overcast condition. The pink kookaburra ball was zipping sharply. But neither Kemar Roach nor his new ball partner Alzarri Joseph make the most out the condition. In the first eight overs, 73% of their deliveries pitched on the shorter side of the pitch. Steve Smith looked confident and was putting them away easily. Windies struck for the first time when Usman Khawaja offered his bat to a ball going nowhere. Marnus Labuschagne is having the worst summer of his life with the bat and top order batter was tested with the short ball. He succumbed to a delivery by Alzarri Joseph eventually. Trevor Sinclair repeated the heroics from the first innings, taking a blinder at the slip cordon.
Travis Head hadn’t have a good Test match until that point. The southpaw batter scored a century in the last game, but failed with the bat in the first innings. It was the second straight golden duck for the South Australian. The 30 year old restored some pride with a moment of inspiration when he ran Kavem Hodge out. He was fielding at short leg when Hodge hit a ball towards him. Head showed the presence of mind to throw the ball and break the stumps.
Hodge was short of his ground and the Domican could hardly believe when the third umpire gave the decision against him. Steve Smith missed another catch after producing a sitter in the first innings. It was tough chance from Alick Athanaze. The ball flew off the edge and Smith failed to grab the ball despite diving valiantly towards his right. Hodge was eventually caught in the slip by Smith, this time off the bowling Nathan Lyon.
Cameron Green was another player who fell short of the usual brilliant mark. The muscular all-rounder shelled an easy chance in the gully during the first innings. He almost spilled one in the second innings, he was able to catch on the second attempt after fumbling with the first one. Alex Carey did the same when he recovered to catch Justin Greaves out. Steve Smith leapt like a salmon and caught Alzarri Joseph brilliantly at second slip. Trevor Sinclair repeated the feat from the first innings, this time catching Marnus Labuschagne out.
None of the West Indian batters managed to get past fifty, yet there were some important contributions in the second innings. Kirk McKenzie played some brilliant strokes to launch a counterpunch on the Australian bowlers. The Jamaican youngster scored 41 runs from just 50 deliveries. Alick Athanaze also had a handy contribution with the bat. The Dominican right hander scored an important of 35 runs. Justin Greaves scored 33 runs. Kavem Hodge also performed well after his heroic exploits in the first innings. He added 29 to the total as Windies looked to take the lead as close to 250 as possible.
Josh Hazlewood was in his typical accurate mode throughout the third day. The towering bowler from Bendemeer was nearly impossible to put away, his economy rate of 1.64 tells the whole story. He claimed three scalps in the second innings and ended the day with figures of 3 for 23. Nathan Lyon was predictably the most used bowler by the Aussie skipper. The newly 500 wickets club inductee bowled tirelessly throughout the day. In his 22 over shift, Lyon picked up three wickets for 42 runs. Pat Cummins himself did not pick up any wickets despite bowling beautifully. Cameron Green and Mitchell Starc were the other bowlers among wickets, each of them picked up a wicket apiece.
The turning point of the day and probably the match came when West Indies was batting at the score of 148. The lead was at 170. Kavem Hodge was batting with Alick Athanaze and the pair looked to be in good touch. Nathan Lyon’s delivery was around the good length and Hodge nudged it down the leg side. Travis Head was fielding at forward short leg. The Windies batter took a couple of short steps instinctively and was out of the crease momentarily.
Head showed brilliant reactions to flick the ball back to the stumps. Hodge tried to scamper back to the crease in a desperate manner, but the replay showed his bat was in the air when the bells were dislodged. It was a much needed breakthrough for Pat Cummins’ side, which desperately needed a breakthrough. Travis Head might have contributed nothing with the bat, but his brilliant piece of fielding turned the game to the Australians’ favour. It was much like the event when Rohit Sharma was caught by the South Australian in the 2023 World Cup final.
Australia need 156 runs with eight wickets in hand. They will get a maximum of 95 overs to achieve this target.
|West Indies First Innings: 311/10 (108 overs)
|Australia 1st Innings: 289/9 (declared) (53 overs)
|West Indies 2nd Innings: 193/10 (72.3 overs)
|Australia 60/2 (17 overs)
|Joshua Da Silva 79 (157)
|Usman Khawaja 75 (131)
|Kirk McKenzie 41 (50)
|Steve Smith 33 (56)
|Kavem Hodge 71 (194)
|Alex Carey 65 (49)
|Alick Athanaze 35 (72)
|Usman Khawa 10 (17)
|Mitchell Starc 4/82 (24 overs)
|Alzarri Joseph 4/84 (14 overs)
|Josh Hazlewood 3/23 (14 overs)
|Alzarri Joseph 1-19 (6 overs)
|Josh Hazlewood 2/38 (20 overs)
|Kemar Roach 3/47 (11 overs)
|Nathan Lyon 3/42 (22 overs)
|Justin Graves 1-29 (7 overs)
The fourth day of the Gabba test promises to deliver something magnificent. After three day’s play, Australia are slightly ahead at this point, with eight wickets in hand. The West Indians would feel they are still within a chance to grab an unlikely victory at the home of world champions. The presence of Steve Smith at the middle will put the Australian fans at ease. The young boys from the Caribbean would feel they are still within a shout to trouble the Australians in a tricky run chase.