Delicately poised: Windies bowlers produce late fightback but Australia slightly ahead in chase of 216

By Sports Desk January 27, 2024
Kirk McKenzie plays a shot during his top score of 41 Kirk McKenzie plays a shot during his top score of 41 Getty Images

After threatening to post an even bigger total at various points of their second innings, West Indies folded for 193 after tea, setting Australia a target of 216. But it was by no means a foregone conclusion, as the regional side's bowlers hit back late on day three, leaving their host at 60-2 heading into day four of the second Test at the Gabba.

Still, with opener Steven Smith off to a positive start at 33 not out, with Cameron Green also there on nine, Australia remain in the driver's seat to secure a further 156 runs and claim a sweep of the home Test, though this unpredictable encounter may have more twists and turns with heavy showers forecast for days four and five due to the after-effects of Cyclone Kirrily.

Scores: Australia 289-9 dec and 60-2 (Smith 33*, Green 9*, Joseph 1-19) trail West Indies 311 and 193 (McKenzie 41, Athanaze 35, Greaves 33, Hazlewood 3-23, Lyon 3-42) by 155 runs

New-ball bowlers Kemar Roach and Alzarri Joseph started sluggishly and failed to make the most of favourable conditions under lights. Australia rattled off 24 runs before opener Usman Khawaja tickled Alzarri Joseph down the leg side.

West Indies' hopes of ending a two-decade Test drought against Australia were further raised when Justin Greaves squared up Marnus Labuschagne, whose edge was brilliantly snaffled by Kevin Sinclair in the slips. From there, Smith and Green survived a probing examination before stumps.

Green was all at sea and struck on the pads by Greaves, but West Indies were unsuccessful in their review. He then edged the next delivery in front of second slip. In contrast, Smith looked technically sound and hit the ball crisply to finish unbeaten on 33 from 56 balls.

 
After a frenetic day two, the match returned to normalcy as the surface settled and West Indies eyed batting long. Resuming at 13 for 1, West Indies needed to survive the new ball onslaught and reached the 25-over mark, after which batting has proven easier, relatively unscathed.

But the surface did not offer as much zip as it did late on day two when Australia had declared 22 runs behind and Josh Hazlewood had sent back Tagenarine Chanderpaul. McKenzie motored along to thwart Australia's pace attack. In contrast, skipper Kraigg Brathwaite was anchored to the crease and scored just six runs off his first 33 balls before whacking Starc uppishly through the covers for his first boundary of the innings.

The batters defied probing hard-length bowling from Pat Cummins and notched a half-century stand before Brathwaite chipped Green to cover. McKenzie slowed down and on his 50th delivery, he missed an attempted sweep to be trapped lbw on Lyon's second delivery.

Athanaze, who has had limited impact in the series, showed glimpses of why he is highly rated with several attractive strokes, as he combined well with Hodge after dinner to rattle Australia. But Lyon's later brightened their mood when he dismissed Athanaze on 35 after tossing up a delivery that was edged to slip, where Smith took a sharp catch.

It was a relief for Smith, who had earlier in the innings dropped Athanaze and Brathwaite, as West Indies fell away before their late fightback left the match delicately poised.

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