AUSvWI, 1st Test, 2nd day…Bravo fights after record Voges-Marsh stand

First, there is Don Bradman and Bill Ponsford. Then comes Adam Voges and Shaun Marsh. Such is the list of all-time Test record partnerships for Australia after Voges and Marsh put on 449 against an insipid West Indies in Hobart. It was the highest fourth-wicket stand in Test history, and the sixth-biggest of the near 70,000 Test partnerships that have ever been compiled. By only two runs did the 451-run Bradman-Ponsford stand against England at The Oval in 1934 survive in first place among Australian partnerships.

Those are the facts, but here is the truth: it would have been criminally misleading for Voges and Marsh to have moved into top spot. In terms of size it was Australia’s second-greatest partnership, in terms of quality it was not even close. That is no slight on Voges and Marsh but on the class of the bowling. In Adelaide last month their fourth-innings stand was 400 runs lighter, but arguably more meaningful as they held off the swing of Trent Boult and Doug Bracewell to set up victory.

Jerome Taylor, Kemar Roach, Jason Holder – they have all delivered at Test level before. Here they went through the motions. And to paraphrase Dorothy Parker on Katharine Hepburn, it was the gamut of motions from A to B. Amble in with little intent, bowl with no apparent plan, walk back to the mark, repeat. Too many half-volleys, too many on the pads, too many boundary balls. Too many fielders back, too many easy singles. Too many runs, too few efforts to stop them.

For most of Australia’s innings this Test had the intensity of a tour game. By stumps little had changed as the West Indies batting order largely collapsed, but at least there was one significant positive for them. Darren Bravo was on the verge of a century. Bravo had moved to 94 and had enjoyed solid support from Kemar Roach, who was on 31, and their partnership had moved along to 91 and was frustrating Steven Smith and his men.

West Indies were still 177 runs away from preventing the follow-on, but it was something. They had, after all, been 6 for 116 when Roach joined Bravo. Nathan Lyon spun out the middle order, Josh Hazlewood and Peter Siddle claimed wickets, but Bravo stood firm. More than that, he played with class, and his innings was all the more impressive for the frequent short rain delays that might have affected his focus.

He was exquisite through cover and mid-off, 15 of his 17 boundaries coming through the off side, and he looked a class above his batting colleagues, who had all struggled greatly. Bravo had one moment of luck on 78 when he edged Hazlewood between Voges and Smith in the slips, but otherwise his only mistake was in not convincing his partner Holder to ask for a review when Marais Erasmus gave him lbw to a Peter Siddle ball that was sailing well over the bails.

That Bravo and Roach had started to show some fight was encouraging for West Indies, for the innings had started miserably. It took Australia four sessions to lose four wickets in their innings; it took West Indies less than one. Hazlewood made the first breakthrough when he had Kraigg Brathwaite trapped lbw for a watchful 2 from 26 deliveries, and then it was all about Lyon.

Rajendra Chandrika had struggled against the spin and when he drove at Lyon on 25 he was taken by a juggling Smith at first slip. A better catch came when Marlon Samuels, on 9, drove on the up and Lyon hurled himself into the air to his left and completed a brilliant return take. It was something of a statement from the man who had become the first Australian offspinner to play 50 Tests.

Five balls later Lyon had a third, when Jermaine Blackwood played defensively with hard hands and saw his inside edge bob up off his leg to be taken by Joe Burns at bat-pad. Four wickets had arrived before tea and soon after the break, Denesh Ramdin followed when he played back to Hazlewood and failed to get the bat down to a ball that stayed a touch low, and he was bowled for 8. When Holder fell it was 6 for 116, a pitiful reply to Australia’s 4 for 583 declared.

It seemed as though nothing could stop Marsh and Voges as they moved Australia’s total along at nearly a run a ball in the first session. Lacklustre as West Indies were, Voges and Marsh still had to concentrate and avoid mistakes, and they did so perfectly. It could also not be forgotten that Australia’s situation had been shaky when they came together on day one.

But almost from the first ball of their stand on Thursday, the pressure on them was near non-existent. On Friday, Voges brought up his double-century from his 266th delivery and in the next over Marsh moved to his 150 from his 227th ball. Both milestones came with singles to deep point; singles were on offer all around the ground all through their partnership.

Voges moved to the highest Test score at Bellerive Oval and his 250 came up from 269 deliveries. It was not until the 110th over that West Indies used a review, when Jomel Warrican thought he had found Marsh’s inside edge, but replays revealed the ball had brushed his pad on the way through to Ramdin. Warrican eventually broke the stand when Marsh slog swept to deep midwicket and was out for 182.

Voges finished unbeaten on 269 after Smith declared the innings closed during the lunch break. He ended the day with a Test batting average of 76.83, second only to Bradman on Australia’s all-time list of players with a minimum of 10 innings. And as well as Voges had batted, that only highlighted further that this was a day on which statistics told only a small part of the story.

(Taken from ESPN Sports Media Ltd)