MELBOURNE – Steve Smith and Usman Khawaja scored half-centuries to halt a defiant West Indies fight-back, pushing Australia’s lead to an imposing 459 runs at the close of day three of the second Test today.
The West Indies bowlers took early wickets to follow some doughty tail-end batting, but Smith and Khawaja ended the fun at the Melbourne Cricket Ground with their positive batting.
After Khawaja’s dismissal for 56, Smith (70 not out) and Mitchell Marsh (18 not out) guided Australia to 179 for 3 at stumps.
Replying to Australia’s mammoth first innings declaration at 551 for 3, West Indies were bowled out for 271 on the stroke of tea, but not without frustrating the Australian bowlers for the first two sessions. Indeed, their defiance and keeping the hosts in the field for their longest period in the series eventually led to Smith’s decision not to enforce the follow-on.
After resuming the day on 91 for 6, debutant fast bowler Carlos Brathwaite made good use of two slices of fortune to make a rousing 59, with Darren Bravo anchoring the tail with a patient 81 made over six hours of batting.
Brathwaite was twice reprieved by the television umpire after being ‘dismissed’ off no-balls from paceman James Pattinson. He was bowled attempting an ugly heave on 13, and then caught at long leg for 50.
But his batting efforts impressed two former Aussie stars and current commentators.
“Carlos Brathwaite’s looked as good as anybody. He’s moving well, calling early,” said former Aussie opener Bill Lawry.
“He’s run well between wickets, he’s defended well and he’s already shown that he’s got some shots,” said Ian Chappell, the former Australian captain.
Although trailing by 280 runs, the West Indies bowlers took heart from the defiant rearguard action and captain Jason Holder had opener Joe Burns caught in the slips for four off a beautiful delivery that moved sharply off the pitch.
After engaging in some heated banter with opener David Warner, Holder caught him in the gully to give Brathwaite his first Test wicket and reduce the Australians to 46 for 2.
The Melbourne Cricket Ground is proving to be a house of pain for Warner (averaging just 24.22 with no hundreds from five matches) – and Brathwaite and Holder didn’t hold back in letting him know all about it with a couple of verbal blasts.
“It’s been documented I bowl quite slow … so if the revs aren’t on the ball from my hand then I need to have something inside to try and get myself up. I tried to show some aggression,” said Brathwaite.
“I’m not sure (if I got under his skin), he’s a professional … it’s just some days it comes off, some days it doesn’t. At the end of the day it’s a war between bat and ball and West Indies and Australia. I don’t take anything off the field personally and if the opportunity presents itself to have a drink with him after the Test (I will), but out there I represent the West Indies and I do everything I can to represent that [West Indies] badge.”
Brathwaite’s exuberant celebrations on claiming Warner’s wicket knocked his captain over but Khawaja, one of four first innings centurions for Australia, teamed up with Smith to remove the smiles before he was caught behind attempting an audacious ramp shot.
Australia are bidding to wrap up the series 2-0 with a victory after winning the opener in Hobart.
Australia 1st Innings 551 for 3
West Indies 1st Innings (overnight; 91 for 6)
K Brathwaite c Burns b Lyon 17
R Chandrika LBW Pattinson 25
D Bravo c Smith b Pattinson 81
M Samuels LBW Pattinson 0
J Blackwood c & b Lyon 28
D Ramdin+ c Burns b Siddle 0
J Holder* b Siddle 0
C Brathwaite c & b Lyon 59
K Roach LBW Pattinson 22
J Taylor c Nevill b Lyon 15
J Warrican not out 11
Total: 271 All Out (100.3 Overs)
Extras: (b 5, lb 3, nb 5) 13
Fall of Wickets: 1-35 (KC Brathwaite, 15.1 ov), 2-50 (Chandrika, 23.5 ov), 3-50 (Samuels, 25.2 ov), 4-82 (Blackwood, 37.5 ov), 5-83 (Ramdin, 40.1 ov), 6-83 (Holder, 40.2 ov), 7-173 (CR Brathwaite, 71.3 ov), 8-215 (Roach, 83.4 ov), 9-239 (Taylor, 89.5 ov), 10-271 (Bravo, 100.3 ov).
Australia 1st Innings Bowling: J Hazlewood 21-6-49-0, J Pattinson 22.3-1-72-4 (nb4), N Lyon 29-8-66-4, P Siddle 18-3-40-2 (nb1), M Marsh 7-4-15-0, S Smith 3-0-21-0.
Australia 2nd Innings (lead; 280)
J Burns c K Brathwaite b Holder 4
D Warner c Holder b C Brathwaite 17
U Khawaja c Ramdin b Holder 56
S Smith* not out 70
M Marsh not out 18
Total: 179/3 (32 overs)
Extras: (lb 7, w 2, nb 5) 14
Still to Bat: A Voges, P Nevill+, J Pattinson, P Siddle, J Hazlewood, N Lyon.
Fall of Wickets: 1-7 (Burns, 1.5 ov), 2-46 (Warner, 10.3 ov), 3-123 (Khawaja, 22.4 ov).
West Indies 2nd Innings Bowling: J Taylor 3-0-24-0, J Holder 11-1-49-2 (nb1), C Brathwaite 6-1-30-1 (w1), K Roach 4-0-22-0, J Warrican 8-0-47-0.
Toss: West Indies won the toss and elected to field
Test Debut: Carlos Brathwaite
Player of the Match: To be announced
Umpires: Marais Erasmus (South Africa) & Chris Gaffaney (New Zealand)
TV Umpire: Ian Gould (England)
Match Referee: Chris Broad (England)