Australia close in on 3-0

A whitewash was always the smart prediction for a series involving the West Indies in Australia. Eager not to disappoint, Ricky Ponting and his men made strides toward another clinical victory, requiring 106 runs with 8 wickets in hand heading into the final day.

The match had been evenly poised through the first three days, as the West Indies resumed on day four on 2/68 – a lead of 45 runs. Yet another batting collapsed featured, however, and Shane Warne’s 6 wickets (6/80) combined with poor umpiring to spin the tourists out for 204.

Refreshingly though, there was fight late in the innings. Dwayne Bravo’s defiant half-century left many reminiscing of Hobart, before he was bowled for 64, attempting to smash Brett Lee away. Defiance had also come in the form of Denesh Ramdin with a promising 28, but the innings was cut short by a questionable umpiring decision. Ramdin was adjudged caught behind off the glove, attempting a sweep shot, but it appeared as though he may have bottom-edged the ball onto the ground before it made contact with his glove.

Not long before, umpire Aleem Dar had made another blunder, giving Dwayne Smith out LBW for a second-ball duck, when a healthy inside edge was involved. The decision had limited the West Indies to 106/7, as Warne had dismissed the woeful Chanderpaul (4), caught at short leg, earlier in the over.

Ramdin and Bravo put on a keen partnership of 54, and the latter in particular grew in confidence. At Ramdin’s dismissal, Fidel Edwards took his guard. The number ten batsman supported well with solid defensive play, whilst Bravo raised the tempo and attacked MacGill for three consecutive boundaries. He made good use of the field placements, and found the boundary a total of 10 times in his 126-ball innings.

Lee returned for another spell, and met results with his first delivery. Bravo walked off to a good ovation, and Lee wrapped up the innings with the last ball of the over, getting Edwards caught at slip. The target of 182 seemed largely short of acceptable, especially given the balance of the game at the start of play.

Earlier in the day, the overnight batsmen attempted to push on and set a good platform for the middle order. The nightwatchman, Daren Powell (2) was bowled around his legs by Warne. His dismissal brought Brian Lara to the crease, and the crowd received him warmly.

The triple world-record holder looked in fine form, and drove Warne through the covers for a boundary. He advanced comfortably to 17, scoring off Warne at will, but was brilliantly held by Hayden at slip as he attempted to drive the legspinner once more. His walk off was a memorable one, as the Australian crowd rose to their feet to acclaim the great man in his final Test innings on the continent.

Then, at 4/96, Australia seemed well on their way to their 3-0 result. Lee claimed Sarwan LBW for 62, though the ball was clearly heading down the legside – a crucial blow, as the then topscorer walked back to the pavilion – 5/96.

At Dwayne Smith’s dismissal, the West Indies had lost 5 wickets for 34 runs before the tailend recovery.

Australia began their chase in confident fashion. Matthew Hayden procured two boundaries in Fidel Edwards’ first over, as 11 runs were scored. The opening partnership moved confidently to 51. Corey Collymore then mixed things up, dismissing Langer (20) and Ponting (3) in quick succession. It looked as though the West Indies had further clawed back into contention when Hayden edged Sarwan off the wicketkeeper’s pad, and was taken at slip. Umpire Dar gave the batsman not out, capping a terrible day of officiating.

Hayden (38 not out) and Hodge (10 not out) played Australia to the close without further incidence – 2/76. Now Australia will head into the fifth day of the Test match with victory in sight, though with more than 100 runs needed, the West Indies will not yet count themselves out.

West Indies 405
Brian Lara 226, Dwayne Bravo 34
Glen McGrath 3/106, Brett Lee 3/111

Australia 428
Mike Hussey 133*, Justin Langer 99
Dwayne Bravo 6/84, Fidel Edwards 3/114

West Indies 204
Dwayne Bravo 64, Ramnaresh Sarwan 62
Shane Warne 6/80, Brett Lee 4/46

Australia 2/76
Matthew Hayden 38*, Justin Langer 20
Corey Collymore 2/27

Australia needs 106 runs to win with 8 wickets in hand.

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