At 10 am on a greenish pitch, Jason Holder lost the toss but didn’t mind that Steven Smith chose to bat. “Hopefully we can exploit the conditions as best as possible and get into their middle order,” he said. By 12.30pm they had done so; Australia were 3 for 121 and wobbling. It turned out getting through that middle order was the hard part, for by 6pm Adam Voges and Shaun Marsh had cruised to centuries, had a triple-hundred partnership, and Australia were 3 for 438.
The only consolation for Holder was that he hadn’t sent Australia in, though he said he would have done so if given the chance. Apart from one crowded hour when they claimed all three of their wickets – the hour leading up to lunch – West Indies were lacklustre. And such was their awful over rate that Holder declined the new ball late in the day so his part-time spinners could race through a few overs. It was quantity, not quality, and they still fell one over short.
Perhaps only in outer space could Voges and Marsh have been surrounded by less pressure than they were by the close of play. Still, their contributions should not be under-valued. They came together before lunch with Australia in danger of being embarrassed. But Voges especially turned that on its head in the second session, moving to a run-a-ball century, his third in Test cricket. He had solid support from Marsh, who scored slower but also raised his third Test hundred.
At stumps, Voges was on 174 and Marsh had 139, and their partnership of 317 was Australia’s third-highest of all time against West Indies, for any wicket. Australia’s run rate had hovered above five an over nearly all day, and only as they blocked out the final few overs before stumps did it dip down into the high fours. Boundaries flowed for most of the day as West Indies served up half-volley after half-volley. Rarely has the term “attack” been more inapt for a Test bowling group.
The 50th boundary of the day came when Denesh Ramdin failed to grasp a Kemar Roach delivery that dipped on him in the 79th over of the day and it ran away for four byes. It rather summed up a day of utter disappointment for West Indies, who also faced the prospect of possibly being without Shannon Gabriel, the only fast bowler to take a wicket. Gabriel bowled only 10 overs for the day before leaving the field to have scans on a troublesome left ankle.
Amongst it all, Voges and Marsh piled on the runs. Voges made the West Indians pay for too often straying onto his stumps, scoring heavily through the leg side. He moved briskly to a 55-ball half-century and turned that into a 100-ball hundred, his second Test ton against West Indies, who by stumps had dismissed him only once in Test cricket for an aggregate of 341 runs. It was his second century of the home summer after he posted 119 against New Zealand in Perth.
Marsh spent the second half of the Perth Test wondering if he would be the beneficiary of Usman Khawaja’s hamstring injury and on his recall helped Australia to victory in Adelaide with 49 in the chase. But he knew that he needed a big score to justify the faith of the selectors and he could hardly have asked for a better opportunity; he faced two dot balls before lunch then came out after the break to face Jomel Warrican with three men back on the boundary.
Marsh was content to let Voges drive the partnership but he certainly played his part. His cover-driving especially was exquisite, and more than half of his 12 boundaries came through that region. His century came with a pull through leg for four off Roach. He had taken 50 more balls than Voges to reach triple figures but it mattered little. Finally, more than four years after he scored a century on Test debut in Sri Lanka, Marsh had made a Test hundred at home.
He had come to the crease with West Indies apparently having the momentum, having got rid of Joe Burns and then Australia’s two best batsmen, Steven Smith and David Warner. The first hour had brought 75 runs, 64 of which came in boundaries, as the bowlers struggled to find the right lengths against Burns and Warner, and when Gabriel nipped one back in to bowl Burns for 33 it was completely against the run of play.
Warrican, chosen for his second Test ahead of the more established legspinner Devendra Bishoo, claimed his first wicket when he slowed his pace and turned one enough to catch the edge of Smith’s bat; he was well taken at slip by Jermaine Blackwood for 10. But Warner remained at the crease and was a significant danger, having raced to a 40-ball half-century that featured 10 boundaries.
However, in the last over before lunch Warner tickled a catch down leg side off Warrican and was caught by Ramdin for 64 off 61 balls. Ramdin had earlier put down Warner on 4 when he dived low to his left in an attempt to snaffle an edge off the bowling of Roach. Holder may have thought that when Ramdin rectified the error by taking Warner before lunch, West Indies might run through Australia. In fact, the middle order was about to exploit them.
(Taken from ESPN Sports Media Ltd)