Australia well on top

A solid third day performance from the West Indies with the ball hasn’t stopped Australia from tightening their grip on the decisive second test at Hobart. The West Indies began the day strongly with 6 wickets in the morning session, but Australia managed a lead in excess of 250 and then picked up four wickets before consistent showers ended play for the day early.

It took just two deliveries for the West Indies to get a breakthrough, when Ponting played on a delivery from Fidel Edwards and was bowled. Michael Clarke’s poor run of form continued as well, and he flashed hard at a wide Edwards delivery and hit it straight to sub fielder Dwayne Smith. Australia’s batting in the morning session was punctuated by poor strokeplay against relatively innocuous deliveries, and Michael Hussey and Adam Gilchrist both fell driving on the up through the off side, while Andrew Symonds was spectacularly run out by Smith.

The one highlight for Australia in the morning session was the performance of debutant Brad Hodge, who came to the crease after the dismissal of Clarke, and lasted until after lunch. Along the way he played some glorious attacking strokes without risk, and displayed a defensive technique against all the West Indian bowlers that is sure to impress the selectors and cause them some headaches ahead of the final test in Adelaide. Hodge seemed likely to run out of partners after Shane Warne fell short of the break, but Brett Lee provided the necessary support to see Hodge to his half-century.

When Hodge did eventually fall LBW to Collymore, it set the scene for an entertaining half-hour as McGrath and MacGill attacked the bowling and carried the score past 400, before a mix-up saw McGrath run out and Australia’s lead cut off at 257, with 9/149 Australia’s score for the day.

The West Indies needed a solid start with the bat in an effort to set Australia a challenging total on the final day, but they did not get it. McGrath dropped one in short to Chris Gayle, who pulled him brutally over midwicket, signalling his intent to attack. He came unstuck the very next ball however, as Australia’s veteran seamer sent in a perfect inswinging yorker that disturbed Gayle’s stumps. After that, a change of ends didn’t present any problems for McGrath, as he had Devon Smith fishing at one that left him off the pitch for his second breakthrough, leaving the West Indies without either opener for the tea break.

After tea the West Indies staged a revival, as Sarwan in particular took to the bowling of Brett Lee, and they saw the score past 50, and saw off McGrath’s opening spell. Lee however continued to charge in, gradually abandoning the fire of his first few overs for line and length bowling, and it paid off with two wickets in the final stages of the day, punctuated by rain interruptions. First Sarwan was caught behind trying to flash one that bounced off a length through the off-side, and then Chanderpaul got a faint edge on a perfect length delivery that angled across him.

When rain interrupted play for the final time on the day, the West Indies had lost the bulk of their recognised batsmen, and were still almost 200 runs in arears, and anything other than a heavy loss looks a remote possibility. The main hope now would probably be respectability, most likely to come in the form of a Brian Lara trademark innings.

Score Summary
West Indies 149
Chris Gayle 56, Shivnarine Chanderpaul 39
Glenn McGrath 4/31, Stuart MacGill 3/18

Australia 406
Michael Hussey 137, Matthew Hayden 110
Fidel Edwards 3/116, Corey Collymore 2/54

West Indies 4/82
Ramnaresh Sarwan 32, Brian Lara 18*
Glenn McGrath 2/14, Brett Lee 2/49

Australia leads by 175 runs with two days remaining.
Australia leads the three test series 1-0

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