Shamar’s a superstar: Windies rookie destroys Australia with all-time great spell to break 27-year drought in cliffhanger
Rookie fast bowler Shamar Joseph spent Saturday night in hospital getting his suspected broken toe checked out but returned to the Gabba on Sunday to produce one of the all-time great spells to propel West Indies to an astounding eight-run cliffhanger Test victory over Australia.
The Windies had not won in Australia since 1997 but Joseph revived memories of the Calypso Kings’ glory days with a superb effort to destroy the world champions’ batting line-up after they had been cantering along at 2-113 in pursuit of 216 for victory.
Rated virturally no hope by all and sundry heading into their two-match series, the Windies broke their 27-year drought Down Under a week after they were thrashed by 10 wickets at Adelaide inside seven sessions.
After the Windies took six wickets in the opening Brisbane session on day four, Australia needed 29 to win after the break in nerve-wracking scenes.
Nathan Lyon clipped a four, was dropped on a return catch by Alzarri Joseph and then gone inside the first over when he nicked a pull shot to bring last man Josh Hazlewood to the crease.
But they fell short of their mission to peel off the final 25 runs despite Steve Smith hitting a ramped six off Alzarri Joseph in his lone hand of 91 not out when Hazlewood was bowled by Shamar for a duck with a brilliant delivery which sparked wild scenes of jubilation.
All out for 207, Smith cut a dejected figure as he trudged off after carrying his bat through the innings with a 146-ball knock of defiance.
Joseph, who had not even played first-class cricket 12 months ago, was grimacing in pain as the 24-year-old from Guyana poured every ounce of energy he could into his bowling as he soldiered through a 10-over spell in the opening session to take 6-60.
He returned after the break to finish off the boilover result to snare 7-68 from 11.5 remarkable overs.
Bowling in the high 140km/h range, he brought back memories of Curtly Ambrose tearing through Australia in Perth, Malcolm Marshall taking four five-wicket hauls in a row in 1984 or Michael Holding, Joel Garner, Courtney Walsh and co when they used to routinely bring the green and gold batters to their knees, figuratively and literally.
Perhaps the best comparison was to South African seamer Fanie de Villiers when he singlehandedly scythed through Australia in Sydney three decades ago when the home side also fell short of a modest victory target.
As he did in Adelaide when he bagged 5-94 on debut, Joseph dropped to the turf to celebrate his outstanding achievement.
After being hit on the big toe by a Mitchell Starc yorker and retiring hurt on Saturday night, Joseph was considered unlikely to play on day four but he not only took the field but unleashed a bowling spell that will etch his name into the rich history of West Indies fast bowling folklore.
Shamar, who was deservedly named player of the match and the series, told Fox Cricket straight after play he wasn’t even going to come to the ground this morning due to the toe pain but he paid tribute to the team doctor for getting him on the park.
“He’s an amazing doctor for me. He said to come to the ground even if it’s just to support the guys. He did something to my toe, I don’t even know what he did but something worked,” he said.
“Taking wickets after wickets, it was all positivity,” he added when asked about the mood in the camp on day four. “I was just sticking to the basics, just on top of off (stump). Even if I was driven for a boundary I wasn’t worrued about it because I was just trying to find my area and that was important for my team.
“I feel like we win the series even though it’s 1-1. It’s really amazing for my teammates, I must give a shout-out to them – they are really encouraging and I’m glad that I’ve made them proud to bring the Test match series to 1-1.”
Joseph joked that he couldn’t muster any more tears after the winning moment after doing so on the field because “I already cried after my five-wicket haul”.
Windies legends Brian Lara and Carl Hooper were in tears as they too were overcome with emotion in their respective commentary booths.
Australia got what they deserved. They were outplayed in all departments and were probably lucky to only trail by 22 runs on the first innings after Pat Cummins rescued them with an unbeaten 64 at No.9.
Smith’s first substantial knock in his new role at opener was the only bright side for the rejigged batting line-up.
Cameron Green failing again to cement his spot at four is not the only cause for concern with Marnus Labuschagne in the driest spell of his Test career, Travis Head going for a king pair and Mitchell Marsh’s counter-attacking tactics failing in both innings in Brisbane when the chips were down.
Following a couple of narrow escapes in their 3-0 series whitewash over Pakistan, then a 10-wicket win in Adelaide last week against the Windies, the loss at the Gabba means Pat Cummins’ team has fallen short of an unbeaten home summer after being below their best form.
They have a two-Test tour coming up against New Zealand before a lengthy red-ball break before next summer’s home showdown over five matches against India.
The Aussies started day four with Smith and Green at the crease and they took the overnight score of 2-60 along to 113 before Shamar started to wreak havoc.
He got the ball to leap off the pitch to catch Green on the glove and the all-rounder could do nothing to prevent the pink six-stitcher clattering into his stumps on 42.
After two cheap dismissals in his first two chances at No.4, this was his chance to show he can be Australia’s long-term middle-order mainstay but Green has again let an opportunity slip as pressure grows on the 24-year-old Western Australian.
Travis Head then suffered the ignominy of becoming just the third Australian to record a king pair when he was yorked first ball by Shamar.
After making 92 from the first 95 balls he faced in the first innings last year against South Africa, he has now been dismissed in four straight deliveries at the ground after registering a golden duck second up against the Proteas.
Head’s a match-winner and the Aussies are going to have to cop the good with the bad and vice versa with the South Australian left-hander but apart from his hometown ton, the 30-year-old has been scored 17 or less in six of his other seven innings.
Shamar sent Mitchell Marsh on his way when he edged to the cordon on 10 and when Alex Carey was bowled by the rookie starfor two, the Aussies had slumped to 6-136, still 80 shy of their victory target.
Mitchell Starc went on the front foot and blazed four boundaries in his 14-ball knock but he skied to debutanat Kevin Sinclair’s safe hands to give Shamar his second five-wicket haul in just his second Test.
Pat Cummins has made a habit of scoring crucial runs down the order when most needed for Australia recently but he perished at the hands of Shamar on two when he couldn’t avoid snicking a leg-cutter through to wicketkeeper Joshua da Silva.
With Nathan Lyon at the crease and just two more wickets required for West Indies to win, the umpires extended the opening session but they couldn’t get any further breakthroughs and the match went into the break with all four results on the table with Australia 29 shy of their target.