Windies out to flip the script, Smith backed to ‘find a way’ as Warner replacement, rain threatens
A back-flipping, fresh-faced West Indies believe they can end a 27-year winning drought in Australia after going blow-for-blow with the hosts in a rollicking Gabba pink-ball Test.
The visitors lost opener Tagenarine Chanderpaul (four) in the final over on Friday to finish on 1-13, but they boast a lead of 35 with nine wickets in hand ahead of day three in Brisbane.
It could have been an even stronger platform if not for a dose of luck for Alex Carey (65 off 49), who scored 57 more after a delivery nicked his off bail but didn’t dislodge it.
Australia were 5-54 but recovered to declare at 9-289, 22 shy of the West Indies’ commendable 311 from a similarly fraught position.
Fifteen losses and five winless Test tours of Australia have come since a Brian Lara century and Curtly Ambrose’s seven wickets led to a 10-wicket victory in Perth’s fifth Test in February 1997.
Mark Taylor’s men won that series 3-2 against a side also featuring Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Courtney Walsh, Carl Hooper, Ian Bishop and Jimmy Adams.
This side is without a host of their more seasoned campaigners and features two second-gamers, a debutant and Chanderpaul’s son.
But, after a loss in less than two-and-a-half days to begin the series in Adelaide, it’s those newcomers who have the tourists within reach of a remarkable victory over the world champions.
Shamar Joseph was the star in Adelaide but it’s been Kavem Hodge (71 in the first innings) and spinner Kevin Sinclair (50), who celebrated his maiden Test scalp with a somersaulting backflip, who have shone at the Gabba.
“That is the head reason why we are so tuned in, because we haven’t won in such a long time,” veteran quick Kemar Roach said.
“To win a Test match in Australia as a young side with a lot of debutants and guys who have played less than 10 Test matches, I think that would set a great mark for us.
“It is a young group and the guys are energetic. They want to play Test cricket and do well against the No.1 team in the world.”
Friday’s first hour will be crucial given the patterns of the first two days, when scoring became easier as the ball softened.
In the Gabba’s first pink-ball Test in 2016 Pakistan made 450 in their pursuit of a record 490.
“I don’t think you can put a figure on it,” Carey said of what Australia could chase down.
“There are going to be opportunities for batters to get in and I don’t see signs of that wicket breaking up too much.
“We know the threat of the first 20 overs and the new ball threat.
“Get through that and there is potential to score a big target.
“See how the first hour goes tomorrow and try to do some damage, then shift into a different plan and keep the pressure on.
“There should be an opportunity for our batters to dig in. Hopefully, it is not a big target but if it is it will be great to see our batters go about it.”
Warner solution not an open-and-shut case for Australia
Steve Smith and Cameron Green fell cheaply for the second time in two Tests since the experiment to replace the retired long-time opener David Warner began.
How to approach life after David Warner remains a question unanswered for Australia’s Test team, but they’re confident Steve Smith “will find a way” after the opening experiment failed again at the Gabba.
Smith was out lbw for six in the first over of Australia’s reply to West Indies’ 311 on Friday’s second day of the Brisbane Test.
Promoted to open after David Warner’s retirement in Sydney, Smith managed 12 in his first effort in Adelaide and was unbeaten on 11 in the second dig as Australia posted a 10-wicket win.
Adding to the issue was another failure for Cameron Green (eight), who was slotted back into the side at No.4 as part of the Smith reshuffle.
The former Test captain’s averaged less than 32 this summer and boasts a highest score of just 50 in five Tests against Pakistan and West Indies, his lowest total in any given summer of a career spanning 14 years.
Smith was exposed, moving dramatically across his crease, Brian Lara picking apart his technique on Fox Sports and an aware Kemar Roach able to exploit it when he nipped the ball back to catch Smith’s pad in line with the stumps.
“His body’s going towards point, his bat is going towards mid-wicket and the ball is crashing into middle stump,” Lara said.
“He’s giving himself little or no chance to make good contact with the ball.”
But Australian teammate Carey said the team and Smith himself had “no concerns at all”.
“He has been dismissed twice as an opener now and he is going to be dismissed a lot more as an opener,” Carey said.
“He is one of the best batters in the world and he will find a way to score big hundreds.
“He has done it in really difficult situations before … a big innings is coming up and hopefully it is in the second innings.”
Green was out meekly chipping a catch to mid-off, Australia falling to 5-54 before rallying to declare just 22 shy of the visitor’s score.
That followed a score of 11 in his only innings in Adelaide, with Green now averaging less than 20 since a maiden Test century in India last March in a run that saw him replaced in the side by fellow allrounder Mitchell Marsh during last year’s Ashes.
Selectors resisted a recall for any of specialist openers Matt Renshaw, Cameron Bancroft or Marcus Harris, despite all presenting strong cases for another chance at the top of the order.
Batting will get no easier for Australia, who have two Tests in New Zealand to follow the home summer, before India visit later this year.
Showers forecast for coming days in Brisbane
While both sides look to be struggling to make big scores, a new challenge will be set to be navigated by both sides – the weather.
A forecast of scattered thunderstorms starting in the afternoon on day three in Brisbane could bring a new state of affairs and challenges into the second Test.
While there is only a 50 per cent chance of rain during the day, the probability is set to increase significantly into the evening, with days four and five seeing a 70 to 80 per cent chance of showers, and light winds growing.
Australia will be desperate to remove the Windies in a lightening fire opening session today to avoid them extending their lead further to a difficult target, and the task of achieving that goal will be made that much more difficult, with rain set to affect the rest of the days of the test match.