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Australia v West Indies (1st Test)
Garth Wattley - 5-9 March 1999

Day 1: Walsh makes West Indies happy

In the 400 club

It's only been done twice before. So when yesterday, during the First Test match at the Queen's Park Oval, West Indies pacer Courtney Walsh captured the wicket of Australian wicketkeeper Ian Healy to take his tally of victims to 400, he was understandably exultant.


A Courtney Walsh delivery thundered into Ian Healy's pads, low, low down. The teeming Queen's Park Oval seemed to catch its breath.

The appeal had been raised. And slowly, umpire Peter Willey lifted the finger that passed sentence on the Australian wicketkeeper and made Walsh catch the power. Then 18,000 faithful started giving praise.

Palms wide open, fingers trembling, face a contorted picture of joyous thanksgiving, he could have been a baptist disciple celebrating on the mourning ground.

But this was the Oval ground and brother Courtney had just ascended Mount 400.

The first compelling day of the 1999 Cable and Wireless Test series had seen Sir Courtney of Kingston enter the elite 400 wickets club, joining New Zealand's Sir Richard Hadlee (431) and India's Kapil Dev (434) in his 107th Test.

And for one memorable moment, Jamaica's Ambassador at Large became the Baron of Port of Spain as well.

First came the hug from ``brother'' Curtly Ambrose. Then Phil Simmons, (on for the injured Roland Holder), then Brian Lara. Then the rest.

And in the stands, to a man, they were on their feet making happy noises until their revered warrior acknowledged them all-in the Carib Beer Stand, Errol Dos Santos, Learie Constantine and Trini Posse. It was a day of signs and signals.

From the first good luck hug from Lara to Walsh before the first over, to the high fives celebrating Pedro Collins's first Test wicket, to the Walsh milestone, the West Indies cricket team sent the right messages to its anxious public.

And while at the end of an uncompromising, even day's play, Australia were hanging on grimly at 174 for 6, Lara's men would have been proud of their day's work. None more so than Walsh.

``To me Malcolm Marshall's record was something very, very special. He is the champion West Indian bowler. But to be the first West Indian to get 400 wickets was something special as well,'' the champion bowler said of his rare feat.

And Walsh was taken aback too at the show of appreciation by the Oval patrons. ``The response from the crowd was tremendous. It was a little bit surprising. I did not expect everybody to be so involved. But it was very, very tremendous.''

What the audience was responding to was another vintage West Indian moment from one of their most prized performers.

It was, indirectly, a response to the honest effort the home side gave on the field. Forced to field first by an Australian side confident enough to take on a strip containing early moisture, they made Steve's Waugh's men work. Hard.

Just five shots reached the boundary over the lush Oval field. And it took 44.4 overs before debutant Collins bowled the first of only three no-balls in the day.

What was more, bowlers and captain seemed to be working to the same plan. And they were duly rewarded. Impressive, energetic left-armer Collins picked up 2 for 31 in 19 overs and Mervyn Dillon got the vital wicket of captain Waugh.

The first day's dividends would have been greater too had it not been for the doggedness of opener Matthew Elliot.

Beaten repeatedly outside off-stump in the first session, especially by the each-way movement of Ambrose and Walsh and the full length and in-swing of Collins, he survived for nearly five hours for a painstaking 44.

It was a knock more valuable for its quantity than quality that helped to avoid a total Aussie collapse. And later the more aggressive Greg Blewett (43 not out) built on the platform.

Elliot's opening partner Michael Slater did not have the patience required for the struggle. With the total 42, he helped Collins's 17th ball in Test cricket into Dillon's safe hands at long leg.

And before lunch, taken with the total on 51, Justin Langer, having struggled through 55 minutes for five, edged a ball that left him slightly to wicketkeeper Ridley Jacobs to become Walsh's 398th Test victim.

That was the first of two well-taken catches held by the increasingly impressive keeper.

The second came after the interval with the visitors having added 23. By then, Walsh had moved on to 399 overall and 100 against the Aussies, trapping tentative Mark Waugh lbw on the backfoot with just two runs added after lunch.

This time, Dillon, getting just enough away movement to find the outside edge of Walsh's bat, saw reliable Ridley snare the catch just before it touched ground.

With four wickets down for 74, a Windies rout was possible. But Elliot, finding a solid ally in Blewett, posted a crucial 44 for the fifth wicket in 88 minutes.

A tiring attack, temporarily missing Collins through a leg injury picked up on his successful lbw appeal against Elliot, seemed to be losing its grip late in the day as Blewett and Shane Warne (15 not out) added an unbroken 22 for the seventh wicket.

But as he left the field yesterday, Lara would not have been discouraged.

The man saluting the pavilion had again shown the value of perseverance.

Day 2: Another West Indies crash, Batsmen let Lara down

The clouds were gathering when Sherwin Campbell and Suruj Ragoonath went out to open the West Indies innings just after lunch. And although the sky was clear when the players went off at the close, the home team was in the gloom again, haunted by a growing, unenviable legacy.

The electronic scoreboard, flashing a West Indies total of 167 for 9, was a stark reminder to the departing Queen's Park Oval patrons of the plight of their team after two days of the First Test of this 1999 series against Australia.

The dramatic tumble of four wickets in the last 13 balls of the day left the home side still 102 runs short of Australia's first innings score of 269. The difference is sizeable.

And while that difference seemed unlikely at more than one point in yesterday's play, the situation at stumps was another accurate reminder of just how hard these times are for Caribbean cricket.

Windies captain Brian Lara was hoping that this new series would help wipe away the bitter memories of South Africa. But the hard truths of that experience were again in evidence yesterday out on the Oval field.

When Australia's last pair Glenn McGrath (33) and Jason Gillespie (28 not out) achieved and equalled their highest Test scores in compiling a crucial 66, the connoisseurs in the Concrete Stand were reminded of how Hansie Cronje's lower order routinely turned trial into triumph.

And when Lara came to the crease with two down for 29, they were murmuring about how the opening positions were still proving a headache.

Then after the captain (62) and debutant Dave Joseph (50) steadied the ship before they departed, Lara sat in the pavilion and saw McGrath and leg-spinner Stuart MacGill leave the SS Windies with gaping holes.

Beginning the day in hope, the home side had their bubble burst and their deficiencies exposed by the resilient world champions.

The clouds in fact were gathering in the first session.

After Curtly Ambrose came back to life with a three-wicket burst that included two victims in successive balls right after the first water-break, tailenders Gillespie and McGrath erased West Indian optimism.

Having had cutting Shane Warne (21) caught at backward point by Sherwin Campbell with the total on 86, ``Ambi'' ended Greg Blewett's vital, resolute, disciplined 58 trapping him plumb lbw at 203.

Next ball, another sizeable crowd was sent into a frenzy when the Antiguan pacer struck MacGill's off-stump.

Soon, however, he left the attack for someone else to perform what seemed a routine chore.

But Gillespie and McGrath had other ideas. Riding their luck, the pair were rewarded for making the bowlers work for their wickets on an increasingly placid pitch.

Hands often on his hips, Lara often showed that he was not amused.

By lunch, the gangling duo had posted an improbable 37, taking the total from 203 to 240.

And when Lara chose to resume with Mervyn Dillon and the tame left-arm spin of Jimmy Adams instead of Ambrose and Courtney Walsh, the tailenders helped themselves to 29 more runs before McGrath edged Dillon, in his first over from the pavilion end, to wicketkeeper Ridley Jacobs.

The mood still seemed to be positive as the Windies left the field. But spirits surely sagged when Ragoonath went.

It was a slow, painful walk that the new opener took when his first Test knock ended in a mad run-out. Having made a positive nine, the pumped up Ragoonath went charging up the pitch after Campbell's push to gully was stopped by the diving Steve Waugh. And the opener was hopelessly short of his ground when Mc Grath dislodged the bails, keeper Healy having relayed the ball. The score was just 16.

And 13 runs later, Campbell fell in more conventional manner, lbw to McGrath.

Promoting new boy Joseph to three ahead of him, Lara now came out to face his nemesis. But the Aussie strike bowler, operating round the wicket at the left-hander, could not dislodge him.

In fact, it would be nearly another two hours before Australia would see the back of the star batsman.

Aided greatly by the sound play of Joseph, Lara survived the occasional lapse and built slowly against McGrath and Gillespie. And he began to flow once Warne and MacGill were in operation.

Joseph was very lucky to survive a run-out appeal when 18, third umpire Clyde Cumberbatch being unconvinced by the video evidence that McGrath's sharp throw from long-leg had beaten Joseph's lunge.

But after tea, he pleased his audience with some powerful strokes, especially the lofted on- drive for four and the mighty six to long-off in succession off MacGill. Some 58 runs came in the first hour.

And overall, Joseph and Lara added a hope-inspiring 88 in 113 minutes. But Joseph had just reached his maiden Test fifty when the burly Antiguan lost concentration, and driving loosely at McGrath, back for a new spell, went lbw.

The captain, on a quiet 38, then moved up a gear to go to a hard-earned 50 with three boundaries in one McGrath over. The sun was out. But at 149 for 3, back came the shadows.

Flicking Warne straight into Justin Langer's lap at forward short-leg, Lara, out of his ground, saw the fielder's sharp flick dislodge the bails. He did not have to wait for third umpire.

The gloom had thickened by the close, Jimmy Adams going bowled driving at a sharp MacGill leg-spinner, nightwatchman Pedro Collins, Curtly Ambrose and finally the injured Roland Holder all joining him in the pavilion.

Last pair Dillon and Walsh will come out today hoping to bring back the sunshine for their side.

Day 3: Windies' back to the wall

Runs or rain in abundance will be required to save the West Indies from losing their sixth consecutive Test match when the First Cable and Wireless Test enters its fourth day today at the Queen's Park Oval.

At the close of yesterday's play in the four-match series, Australia were ahead by 329 runs with three second innings wickets still standing.

The tourists, who had led by 102 runs on first innings, were 227 for the loss of seven wickets when play ended in virtual darkness just before 6 p.m. yesterday. But with two days left, even the most optimistic West Indian supporter can have no problems seeing the writing on the wall.

After the Windies were whitewashed and embarrassed 5-0 in the recent tour of South Africa, Caribbean fans are not nearly as believing as they used to be. And after Saturday and yesterday, their faith is likely to have been shaken further.

The spectacular collapse late on the second day left the West Indies to begin yesterday on 167 for the loss of nine wickets. They failed to add to their overnight score, Glenn McGrath uprooting Mervyn Dillon's off-stump with the final ball of the first over to finish with impressive figures of five for 50.

It was in stark contrast to what had happened the day before when McGrath and Jason Gillespie added a run-a-minute 66 for the final Australian wicket.

From them on, the 7,000 spectators-less than half the number that turned up on the first two days-watched as the dashing Australian opener Michael Slater combined his natural aggression with sound defence until almost the stroke of 5 p.m. when a rare rush of blood cost him his wicket.

By that time, he had already given cricket fans more than their money's worth, scoring a flawless 106, despite two interuptions for rain which would not have helped his concentration one little bit and the wickets that kept falling around him at regular intervals.

His 12 Test centuries have been scored in 46 matches but he has now notched five 100s in his last nine Tests, the last four all coming in the second innings.

In his 203-ball knock yesterday, the 29-year-old from New South Wales blazed 12 fours, half of which came after he had reached 75. And there were no nervous 90s for Slater, who reached three figures by slamming Courtney Walsh for three fours in the first over after the 4.40 p.m. drinks break.

But charging down the wicket to hit part-time spinner James Adams for a second consecutive four, Slater missed and was smartly stumped by wicketkeeper Ridley Jacobs. He had been so dominant in the latter stages of his innings that first innings top-scorer (58) Greg Blewett only contributed 15 to a crucial partnership of 67.

They had come together in tricky circumstances after the experienced Waugh brothers were dismissed in the space of six balls.

After an 81-run partnership with Slater, Mark Waugh (33) was lbw to Ambrose three balls after they had returned from a 3.15 p.m. tea. And one run later, with the score on 127, twin brother and skipper Steve failed to trouble the scorers, edging debutant Pedro Collins to the keeper.

Slater's dismissal also triggered another quick wicket when Ian Healy seemed to be unluckily adjudged leg before wicket for the second time in the match off Walsh's bowling.

193 for five had quickly become 194 for six but Blewett and Shane Warne prevented another potential collapse by adding 33 before Blewett became Jacob's fourth victim, stumped for 28 off Adams.

Opener Matthew Elliot, caught by Dave Joseph off Walsh without scoring, was the only dismissal other than the two lbw decisions yesterday which did not involve Jacobs.

He got into the act catching Justin Langer (24) off the bowling of Dillon with the score on 45.

Three balls after Blewett departed, the Australians, who had turned down the umpires' offer of the light at 5.45 p.m., accepted and play ended with 11 of the mandatory 90 overs still to be completed.

It was probably the latest that play in a Test match has ever finished at the Oval and seeing the refreshment cart come onto the field at 5.50 p.m. has to be a first. We may see another rare occurrence today as play could begin at 9.25 a.m. to make up for the 57 minutes lost yesterday.

The Windies have their backs up against the wall in this battle with the best team in the world but the good news is that star batsman Shivnarine Chanderpaul, who missed the match because of a shoulder injury, is back in form .

It may be no help in saving this Test but it means that there is likely to be more help for the middle-order in Jamaica next week. for their side.

But for the Prince, there is the sense of deja vu about the dark night.

Day 4: Day of shame

West Indies crumble to their worst ever score

``Yuh see me, I could get kill now I ent care!''

The man standing perilously close to the electric television cable being set up for the post match ceremony was not thinking straight.

At least he could speak. The nonplussed figures dotted about funereal Queen's Park Oval were still sitting. Transfixed. Speechless.

That coarse-sounding, ugly, final ``thwack'' that was the sound of swiping Pedro Collins's middle stump being struck by Jason Gillespie was ringing in their ears.

And for the woman moving slowly across the ground past giddy, yahooing barebacked Australian supporters, the tears just flowed.

The poor soul could not look up at the scoreboard again. The one showing 51 as the total of the West Indies cricket team.

Two, five, three ... Those could have been the winning numbers in the Lotto quick pick. Instead, they were the losing scores of players on a side that had just made the West Indies' lowest-ever score in 71 years of Test cricket. Scores of players had just lost the First 1999 Cable and Wireless Test by 312 runs.

``You never expect to bowl a team out for 51 in a Test match,'' admitted Australia's new captain, pleased as punch Steve Waugh.

``But we've been on the receiving end a couple times in Perth (1993), when (Curtly) Ambrose took seven for one, so we know what it's like to be on the other end.''

True. But the faithful, who despite fearing the worst, paid their money to watch the fourth, and in the end, final day's play had never seen the like.

They had seen England's famous, Ambrose engineered 46 in the 1994 series. And over the last 23 years, the Oval posse had seen their beloved side humbled just once, in last year's Third Test against Mike Atherton's Englishmen.

But yesterday, as the disbelieving audience watched the latest West Indian batting free-fall to disaster, it was again shockingly clear that a new sobering era of struggle had dawned in Caribbean cricket.

The 51 mustered by Brian Lara's unit was 49 short of the 102 managed by the 1935 West Indians against England that had previously been the lowest West Indies total at home.

And while yesterday's ``score'' was a just two shy of the previous overall record of 53 set by Viv Richards's side at Faisalabad during the 1986/87 series against Pakistan, the comparisons stop there.

That team that succumbed to the high-class leg spin of Abdul Qadir on an accommodating surface, contained CG Greenidge, DL Haynes, RB Richardson and HA Gomes.

But there were none of that ilk, bar one facing the accomplished seam and swing attack of Man of the Match Glenn Mc Grath (5/28) and Gillespie (4/18).

And from the time Sherwin Campbell, feet planted, stuck his bat out at a Gillespie ball and edged to Mark Waugh at second slip, with the total just two in the eighth over, the slide was on.

Before a persistent shower finally, mercifully sent the players off the field for an early lunch, the Windies had surrendered five wickets for16 runs in 23 balls.

The scene was bizarre, one the crowd could not have been prepared for after the last three Aussie wickets had added 34 to leave the home side needing a daunting 365 to win. These are not the sunny days of old.

The dark, grey clouds, assembling as if on cue for the start of the debacle, set the scene. And then batsmen, robbed of their self belief, found themselves part of a sad procession.

In fact, the home side was skittled in an hour and 42 minutes and 19.1 overs.

``The batting we've seen so far, it's probably a lack of technique. If you've got a slight technique, you're going to get found out, particularly with excellent bowlers like we have,'' noted Waugh. Eight for two: Dave Joseph, fending at a rising McGrath delivery he might have ignored, is snared by Shane Warne at first slip.

Eleven for three: skipper Lara, having picked up three with one confident pull, is picked up in the slips, pushing out to a Gillespie ball that left him.

Sixteen for four: Jimmy Adams is lbw again, this time playing back on the low-bouncing surface to McGrath. Sixteen for five: Ragoonath completes a harrowing debut, lbw playing across the line to Gillespie. Lara aside, Waugh's words were spot on.

But it was unlikley that the numbed Oval had the capacity for sober analysis.

``Chaos in de Oval. Water and wickets!'' wailed on fan.

The rain-extended lunch passed in silence, while the record-books were consulted.

Test cricket's lowest ever Test score-26-set by the 1954-55 New Zealanders against England was in danger. But to the rescue, again, came Ridley Jacobs. Taking a positive approach, the level-headed wicketkeeper batsman produced another face-saving effort that saw the Windies past the 26 with a push into the covers.

An Ambrose boundary over the slips ensured that England's 46, the ground record, was passed.

By then Roland Holder and his throbbing ankle had gone after he edged McGrath into the slips.

But having struck that blow, he then became the third lbw victim of the innings. The score was still 47 when the Windies unravelled further, Mervyn Dillon run out by miles by Greg Blewett as Jacobs went for an ill-advised single.

Two runs later, the keeper himself perished for 19, struck plumb in front on the popping crease by McGrath.

``A-men!'' moaned someone. This was not the celebratory Concrete Stand salute. Then came Collins and that awful sound.

``I do not want to go through this period for the remainder of my career. I think it is important that the important heads in the West Indies get together and see how best we can solve this problem,'' a brave-faced captain Lara said.

A great rallying effort would help.

But the skipper knows that perhaps only his batting inspiration may break the Windies fall. And wipe away the tears.

Source: The Express (Trinidad)