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Monday, May 26, 2008

Will Australia be able to keep a resurgent West Indies at bay?

Australia 431 and 167 (A Symonds 79, D Bravo 4/47, D Powell 3/36 , F Edwards 3/40) v West Indies 312 and 1/46. West Indies need another 241 runs with 9 wickets in hand. First Test Day 4 at Sabina Park, Jamaica.

This has turned into a cracker of a match.

On Day 4 West Indies continued their revival, albeit in a more muted way than on Day 3, and, while still not in the box seat, are still in strong contention.

Australia's abysmal start continued in the first over of the day's play when nightwatchman Mitchell Johnson was well caught behind by Denesh Ramdin off Daren Powell. 5/18: one of the worst starts ever for an Australian team, as several commentators of a Schadenfreudish disposition pointed out.

Fortunately (for Australia) Brad Hodge and Andrew Symonds repaired some of the damage with a 52 run partnership. Hodge was the more assertive early but seemed to wilt in the heat (not under the pressure) before he edged Dwayne Bravo - the right choice as first change bowler - low to Ramdin for a 27 that was worth much more. 6/70 was far from a secure position but it showed the remaining batters that all was not lost, despite the generally hostile and accurate bowling and the frequently brilliant fielding.

Symonds, as he'd done in the first innings, became more aggressive: he added 72 with Brad Haddin 23/76b and eventually finished with 79/ 118b (9x4, 3x6) which, apart from providing the cornerstone of Australia's response, showed that he is now a most accomplished Test batsman.

When West Indies, needing 287 to win, began their second innings the Australian attack was more uniformly disciplined, with Stuart Clark once again looking the most dangerous. He took the only wicket to fall, that of Brenton Parchment, who has struggled as an opener bu who is a brilliant fielder. As the light faded Stuart MacGill bowled two overs with a defensive field. He didn't turn the ball much but was treated with sufficient respect to stake a claim to bowl a few overs on the last day. That said, Andrew Symonds's off spin might be a better proposition on a wicket which has not broken up as much as might have been expected. He will not turn the ball as much as MacGill but should be much less prodigal.

241 runs is still a tall order for the West Indians and the Australians will certainly harry them all the way.

The outcome? I'd say a narrow (50 runs or less) Australian victory but wouldn't put money on it.

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