At 104 for 1 in the 35th over, West Indies looked in some sort of control over Australia for the first time in the series. Perhaps, the fact that they won the toss and were batting first aided their cause. Maybe, the side batting first did have an advantage in Australia. But, on a day when 15 overs were lost to play due to twin rain delays, the Aussies ended up regaining control of the match, as the Windies stumbled to 207 for 6 by the end of day’s play. It could have been worse as West Indies were 159 when they lost their sixth wicket.
There were a couple of striking moments that turned the tide in Australia’s favour after a rather uncharacteristic assured start from the Windies. Darren Bravo fell immediately after lunch for 33, as he hooked James Pattinson to Usman Khawaja. Soon after, Marlon Samuels came in and was run out a few overs later after being involved in a shocking mix-up with Kraigg Brathwaite. Samuels called his partner for a non-existent single, and both ended up stranded mid-pitch. While Brathwaite stumbled his way back to safety, Samuels did not have such luck as the throw to his end found him short.
Samuels’ dismissal represented the hesitant mind-set of the Windies, which has been on display throughout the series. Here was a chance where the West Indies could have built on a reasonable start, which they had been missing for most of the earlier two games. It was also an opportunity for Samuels to put behind his poor form and look to stand up. He too couldn’t complain about the situation as West Indies were reasonably placed when he came in. Yet, Samuels ended up failing to make use of the opportunity. It will be difficult to see him playing for the team again.
The entire series for West Indies has been about one man shining and the rest faltering around him. The opening day of the Sydney Test has been no different. K. Brathwaite held the innings together with his 85, but once his 91-run stand with Bravo ended, it was all downhill for the visitors. Jermaine Blackwood had another poor game, falling for 10 while skipper Jason Holder too was out cheaply. The partnership between Denesh Ramdin and Carlos Brathwaite saw them past 200, but K. Brathwaite would be disappointed at missing out on an hundred for the second time in the series.
Australia again were dominant over the weak West Indies batsmen. Even during the partnership between Bravo and K. Brathwaite, they ensured things did not go out of control. It was a perfect team effort as Josh Hazlewood and Pattinson chipped in during the first half of the day, and Nathan Lyon took over in the second. On a surface offering spin assistance from day one, he sent back K. Brathwaite and Blackwood while the second spinner, Steve O’Keefe, chipped in with Holder’s wicket. Australia, as usual, hold the aces going into day two.
--By A Cricket Analyst