/ 13 June 2008

Windies on top after rain-hit first day

Australia were struggling at 226-7 after a rain-shortened first day of the third Test against the West Indies on Thursday.

West Indies all-rounder Dwayne Bravo claimed three wickets and Andrew Symonds made a crucial half-century for the tourists in a lively opening to the final Test of the series, which Australia lead 1-0.

With the evening session lost to the weather, Australia will start again on Friday with Brett Lee and debutant spinner Beau Casson at the crease on what has been a lively wicket with plenty of pace and bounce.

It was a surface that ensured plenty of entertaining cricket and left the game enticingly poised.

”It’s great to watch cricket on these sorts of wickets, the margin for error is reduced so that the good players get runs and the good bowlers get wickets,” said Australia coach Tim Nielsen.

”That’s what Test cricket is about. So I thought today [Thursday] was a really intriguing day and the game is pretty evenly balanced.”

Returning captain Chris Gayle won the toss and invited Ricky Ponting’s side to bat, and was rewarded with Fidel Edwards and Jerome Taylor both generating some impressive pace.

But it was Bravo, less quick but more varied, who was the most dangerous.

Australia, who lost three batsmen to hook shots, were positive from the outset, scoring at an impressive rate. But at the close Ponting, who hit two sixes in one over in the first session, will likely reflect his batsmen were too adventurous.

Brisk start
After Phil Jaques and Simon Katich made a brisk start, putting on 46 inside 11 overs for the first wicket, Taylor struck when Jaques top-edged an attempted pull shot and wicket-keeper Denesh Ramdin ran back to safely pouch a high catch.

Ponting came in and hit two sixes in one over off Daren Powell but went for 18 after he was trapped leg before by Taylor.

Mike Hussey then fell into a trap from Bravo — hooking the medium-pacer straight to Powell at fine-leg, who took an excellent catch on the ropes.

Bravo struck again in the same over with a superb delivery to dismiss Michael Clarke, the ball moving away from the batsman who nicked it to Ramdin. Australia were 98-4 at lunch.

The afternoon session began with Katich removed by Edwards — the fiery Barbadian pace bowler’s rising delivery caught out Katich as he attempted to hook and Gayle raced back from slip to take a good catch.

Gayle, returning from two months out with a groin injury, received treatment from medical staff after he fell awkwardly after completing the catch but was able to continue.

With Australia at 111-5, the West Indies were looking to get into the lower order.

They had a chance when Symonds, on seven, flashed a drive from Bravo into the slips but Xavier Marshall could not hold it.

Symonds then took charge, putting on 87 with wicketkeeper Brad Haddin before the latter was trapped leg before by recalled slow left-armer Sulieman Benn. Shortly before tea, Symonds reached his half-century from 78 balls featuring five fours and a six.

The muscular Queenslander, who has had some verbal battles with opposing bowlers throughout the series, looked well set for a big knock, but after tea Bravo finally got his man.

Symonds went to drive on the up and his shot flew to Sewnarine Chattergoon at cover who took a diving catch.

Brett Lee then had to endure some hostile short-pitched bowling from Edwards before the clouds came in. — Reuters