Steven Smith’s ninth hundred – his fifth in six Tests – held Australia’s innings together in Jamaica, his partnerships of 118 with Michael Clarke and 76 with Adam Voges ensuring West Indies were able to claim only four wickets on the first day. The returns were fewer than Denesh Ramdin would have wanted when he gave his fast bowlers first use of a moderately grassy pitch at Sabina Park.
West Indies had a hero too, though. Jerome Taylor was outstanding, dismissing Australia’s openers while not conceding a run in six overs before lunch. He swung the ball both ways at pace, got it to bounce appreciably, and finished the day with figures of 15-8-18-3.
Unfortunately for the home side, Taylor had little back up. Kemar Roach and Veerasammy Permaul were expensive, and Jason Holder had a bit of a groin problem in the second session.
West Indies had been hindered by injury and illness before play began as well. Marlon Samuels had an eye problem, Devendra Bishoo was nursing a sore finger, and Shannon Gabriel had the flu, and so they had to bring in the debutant Rajendra Chandrika, Permaul and Roach.
Despite those setbacks, West Indies began the Test so well. Taylor got the third delivery of the match to explode from a length, and David Warner fended as it seamed away from him, the sharp bounce taking the outside edge to third slip. In the fifth over, after moving a couple of deliveries away from Shaun Marsh, Taylor nipped one in from round the wicket and hit the left-hander’s pads as he stumbled across his crease. Australia were 16 for 2. Taylor had 25 wickets at 12.92 apiece at Sabina Park, the second best bowling average at this venue for a bowler with more than ten wickets.
Taylor troubled the right-hand batsmen too, beating Smith and Clarke with perfectly pitched outswingers and then hurrying them into defence with skiddy deliveries that zipped in.
While Taylor tied Australia down, however, Roach was too loose, too often. He had given Marsh room to play several drives through cover and a half-volley on the pads allowed Smith his first runs off his 11th delivery. Roach’s costliest error, though, came when he had Clarke caught and bowled in the first over of his second spell. Clarke was walking off for 3 when replays showed Roach had over-stepped; Australia would have been 22 for 3.
West Indies slumped after that and Clarke cut free, driving and pulling Holder for four, before lofting Roach for six and steering him to the third-man boundary. Roach would end the first session with figures of 7-0-40-0.
Ramdin brought on Permaul at the start of the second hour and the left-arm spinner struggled against two nimble batsmen. Smith stepped out and lofted Permaul for four to long-off in his first over; Clarke did the same but for six over long-on in his second. Later on, using his crease expertly, Smith stepped out to flick, then stayed back to cut, and stepped out to flick again for three boundaries in an over.
Australia scored 91 in the first session, and Clarke began the second by taking the first runs off Taylor, a flick through midwicket in his seventh over. Even as the ball grew older, Taylor remained economical and got the occasional outswinger to bounce sharply past the outside edge.
As Clarke slowed down – he made 17 off his last 66 balls – Smith took a shine to Permaul, stepping out to hit a brace of straight sixes that brought up Australia’s 100 and his half-century. Run accumulation had appeared risk free when Clarke, in an attempt to pick up his pace again, drove loosely at Holder and edged behind on 47.
Nothing deterred Smith, though. He kept moving across his stumps to work the quicks through the leg side, and attacked Permaul often by stepping out of his crease. His progress was smooth, and under his charge, Australia made 79 in the second session. With Smith was Adam Voges, who got going by cutting Holder twice for four before dropping anchor to blunt the West Indies attack.
Soon after tea, Smith punched Permaul through cover and celebrated his hundred, and Voges also stepped out to clout the spinner for six. Permaul’s ineffectiveness and the lack of options made Ramdin bowl part-time spinner Kraigg Brathwaite for 19 overs: he had only bowled 82 balls previously in his 21-Test career. Brathwaite, however, should have dismissed Smith, but Darren Bravo grassed the edge off the cut at first slip.
Smith was on 109 at the time, and with Taylor having just dismissed Voges, Australia would have been 218 for 5. Instead, Smith ended the day unbeaten on 135, having added 48 with Shane Watson to lead his team into a position of strength.
(ESPN Sports Media Ltd.)