Clarke puts Australia in command

Michael Clarke scored a fine 110 and then picked up two top-order wickets as Australia ended the second day of the second Test against the West Indies on Saturday with a 354-run first-innings lead.

Clarke’s classy innings guided Australia to a commanding 479-7 declared, and he then halted a spirited reply from the hosts by claiming the wickets of Xavier Marshall (53) and Runako Morton (2) as West Indies ended the day on 125-3.

The Australia vice-captain had missed the first Test victory in Kingston due to the death of his fiancée’s father, and he had not played cricket for over two months.

Ricky Ponting’s decision to declare was a positive move, with the Australia skipper clearly wanting to get into the West Indies top order. But on an easy track his team could have made plenty more runs with Brett Lee smashing an unbeaten 63 before Ponting called halt to the innings during tea.

It was another disappointing day for West Indies. After Australia resumed on 259-3, they got the start they needed with two early wickets, but they failed to then get into the tourists’ middle order.

Opener Simon Katich, a century-maker on Friday, was unable to add to his 113 when he flicked a leg-side delivery from Jerome Taylor into the hands of West Indies wicketkeeper Denesh Ramdin.

Andrew Symonds, who has been in good form on tour, went in similar fashion for 18 off the bowling of Fidel Edwards.

Clarke, on 63, almost made it a hat-trick of leg-side catches for Ramdin when he tickled one off Taylor, but this time the West Indian keeper had to stretch further to his left and was unable to hold on.

That proved to be an expensive miss for the hosts as Clarke, middling the ball regularly and driving with confidence on an easy track, added a further 47 runs before finally departing.

Brad Haddin made 33 in a good supporting innings before he was caught by Runako Morton as he checked a drive to a slower ball from Taylor.

After Clarke went, Lee and Mitchell Johnson (29 not out) went on the attack with Lee, a run short of his best-ever Test score, bringing up his fifty with a huge six off Darren Sammy.

The West Indies fielding was ragged at times and both Lee and Johnson were dropped late in the afternoon session.

The lack of consistency was evident in the host’s batting, with opener Devon Smith (16) getting out to a loose stroke, slashing a wide Johnson delivery straight to Symonds at point.

Marshall, without a first-class century in his career and playing in his third Test nearly three years after last featuring in Sri Lanka, played some fluent shots before inexplicably leaving a straight ball from left-arm spinner Clarke, which rapped him on the pads in front of the wicket.

Then, four balls later, Morton (32) tried to hammer a full-length Clarke delivery but succeeded only in squirting the ball to Katich, who gobbled up the catch at short mid-wicket. — Reuters

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