Head-strong ton and Hazlewood’s sizzling spell send Windies sprawling but Aussies struggling for form despite winning streak


It’s either the sign of a champion team that they keep winning but Australia are in a form slump despite Travis Head’s ton and Josh Hazlewood’s sizzling spell putting them on the verge of victory over the West Indies.

Whether it’s a post-Ashes hangover, the cumulative effects of the World Cup campaign at the end of a busy year or just a collective lull, the Australians have been below their best this home summer.

That is despite winning all three Tests against Pakistan and eventually getting on top of a spirited Windies side in Adelaide by stumps on the second day to have them 6-73, still needing 22 more runs to make Australia bat again. 

The Australian batting unit is not firing on all cylinders and while Pat Cummins is in a purple patch and Hazlewood now has eight wickets in this match, the bowlers have not quite been at their collective best and if Pakistan had held their chances in the slips cordon better, they could have stolen a Test or two from the world champions. 

Australia’s top-order rejig continued to flounder on day two against the Windies with Cameron Green departing for just 14 in his first crack at the No.4 spot after converted opener Steve Smith went for 12 the previous afternoon. 

When Mitchell Marsh fell for a circumspect five, the Aussies were in a spot of bother at 5-126 in reply to the West Indies’ total of 188 before Head’s trademark counter-attack steered the hosts to 283 and a first-innings lead of 95. 

Shamar Joseph continued his amazing start to his Test career by bagging 5-94, adding the scalps of Green, Mitchell Starc and Nathan Lyon to Smith and Marnus Labuschagne. 

He bowed down onto the Adelaide Oval turf after bowling Lyon early in the final session to become the 10th West Indies debutant to notch a five-wicket haul. 

FIVE wickets for Shamar Joseph on Test debut!

How good #AUSvWI pic.twitter.com/g3OiaT6yVh

— 7Cricket (@7Cricket) January 18, 2024

Head’s innings saved Australia’s blushes – blasting 119 from 134 balls with  three sixes complementing a dozen fours at his home ground.

He raced from 70 to his final score in just 34 deliveries as he powered to three figures at Adelaide for the second time in successive summers.

The 30-year-old only scored one red-ball ton in 2023 – in the World Test Championship final win over India at The Oval in June – and had struggled in the three-match series against Pakistan, tallying just 81 runs at 16.2.

???? for Travis Head as his home crowd rises as one!

It’s his seventh Test century, coming off 122 balls with 12 fours and a six ???? #AUSvWI pic.twitter.com/0DivmuyffP

— 7Cricket (@7Cricket) January 18, 2024

His seventh Test century also took him past 3000 runs in his 46th match. 

He came to the crease early in the morning session when Green nicked off to Joseph after it looked like he was hitting his stride with a couple of boundaries. 

Usman Khawaja progressed from his overnight score of 30 to 45 before he sparred at a wide ball from Justin Greaves and Alick Athanaze made no mistake with an athletic grab in the slips. 

It was the fourth successive time this summer that Khawaja has departed in the 40s in the first innings. 

A great catch by Hodge ends a great innings by Head ???? #AUSvWI pic.twitter.com/9htRqNyCG8

— 7Cricket (@7Cricket) January 18, 2024

Marsh didn’t look comfortable and after edging the ball low a few times, the Windies pulled off a clever ploy by putting Greaves a few steps before the rest of the slips cordon. And helmet and all, he managed to grasp the next chance that came his way. 

Alex Carey helped steady the ship with Head but went no further than 15 after he became Greaves’ second Test wicket with a snick to keeper Joshua da Silva.

Starc (10), Cummins (12) and Lyon (24) smacked some handy runs as the tail wagged to consolidate Head’s onslaught.

(Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

Tag Chanderpaul fell to the commentator’s curse provided by James Brayshaw on Seven, nicking off to Hazlewood first ball seconds after he was described as a player who “puts a high price on his wicket”.

To be fair to the left-handed opener, he didn’t do much wrong as he played what looked like a solid forward defence but Hazlewood’s angled delivery decked away enough to clip the outside edge on the way through to Carey’s gloves.

The Windies slumped to 2-1 when Head backed up his explosive batting with a superb catch at bat pad when Kraigg Brathwaite clipped Hazlewood off his pads for what he thought would be a single to leg.

When Athanaza gloved a short ball from the same bowler without scoring, Hazlewood had 3-0 and the Windies only had seven on the board. 

He had the extraordinary figures of 4-2 when Kavem Hodge edged the NSW seamer to Smith’s perennially safe hands at second slip. 

Four for Hazlewood in five overs! #AUSvWI pic.twitter.com/JwhkgNRvuc

— 7Cricket (@7Cricket) January 18, 2024

The procession continued when Green tempted Kirk McKenzie into one too many expansive drives on 26 which found Labuschagne at short cover to make it 5-40 as newspaper sub-editors across the country dusted off the old “Calypso collapso” headlines.

Greaves and da Silva (17 not out) defied the Australians in the final hour with a 33-run stand to at least take a day-two finish out of the equation but the all-rounder was dismissed on stumps by a Lyon off break from around the wicket.

Given not out, Lyon called for the review which showed it was pitching just in line with leg stump and straightening to send Greaves on his way for 24.

Cummins was given the option of extending play for another half-hour to potentially snare the final four wickets to wrap up the match on Thursday but he opted to put his feet up overnight.


It’s Trav Head’s day in Adelaide #AUSvWI pic.twitter.com/mzOsDQk8M0

— cricket.com.au (@cricketcomau) January 18, 2024

Australia will go on to close out the victory in this Test, likely inside the first session on Friday, but when you compare the playing talent of the two sides, particularly with the lowly Windies missing a couple of their best players, there is no hiding from the fact that there is still a lot for the home side to improve upon.

No one player is in a major slump, it’s just that the likes of Smith, Labuschagne and Green are not anywhere near their best, and apart from Cummins and Marsh, everyone else has had their moments but overall appeared to be a little flat this home summer.

This kind of form is enough to beat the teams at the lower end of the world rankings, but they will need to perform much better on the upcoming two-match tour of New Zealand, not to mention next summer’s five-Test showdown with India. 

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