Cricket: Australia frustrate fearsome attack

West Indies pace battery in need of recharging as England A reveal disciplined batting streak
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The Independent Online
reports from Brisbane

Australia 282-5 v West Indies

For Australia, it was thoroughly satisfying, for the West Indies utterly frustrating and for the biggest first-day crowd at the Gabba in 20 years the start of the series labelled here "The Decider" was intriguing from first ball to last.

Sent in, Australia somehow battled through against high-class fast bowling by Curtly Ambrose, Courtney Walsh and Kenny Benjamin to be 196 for 3 an hour into the final session with the Waugh twins engaged in a stand of 50.

Walsh then removed Mark for 38 and the left-handed Michael Bevan with successive balls, leaving the innings at the crossroads.

The two most dependable Australians, Steve Waugh and Ian Healy, pointed the path towards comfort over the last hour and a quarter as they added 86 and, at 282 for 5, the home team could anticipate a total of around 400.

As solid and unflappable as always, even against the predictable dose of bouncers, Steve Waugh closed with 48 while Healy, the doughty vice- captain whose place as wicketkeeper has been challenged of late, responded to the potential crisis with characteristic gusto. He stroked seven boundaries in 47 made from only 66 balls as the heat and humidity of a typical Brisbane day took their toll on the ageing West Indies fast bowlers.

Their spirits had already been depressed by their appalling bad luck. On an evenly grassed pitch, Ambrose and Walsh repeatedly passed uncertain bats and found probing outside edges. Yet all they had to show by mid- afternoon was the wicket of the new opener, the left-handed Matthew Elliott who joined the eminent company of other openers such as Len Hutton and Graham Gooch who have failed to score in their debut Test innings. Tense as a drum, Elliott gloved his 12th delivery to the keeper off Ambrose.

The captain, Mark Taylor, and Ricky Ponting, filling the No 3 position held for so long by his retired fellow Tasmanian, David Boon, then repaired the early damage with a partnership worth 126 before the persevering Walsh finally gained the wicket that had seemed possible off almost every delivery before lunch. He induced an ill- conceived pull from Taylor that diverted the ball back into his stumps.

The 21-year-old Ponting, aggressive in spite of several near misses, lost rhythm the longer his innings lasted and fell 12 short of his hundred just before tea, a victim of drifting concentration as he tugged a short ball from Benjamin well wide of off stump into mid-on's lap.

Benjamin, in the middle of an excellent spell, very nearly bowled Steve Waugh second ball but the twins were moving along nicely before Mark was spectacularly caught down the leg side by wicketkeeper Courtney Browne, and the left- handed Bevan parried a catch to third slip, confirming widely held doubts over his ability against the short, rising ball.

The crowd of just under 17,000 was stunned into muted reaction at the turn of events but the West Indian penchant for peppering Steve Waugh around the body and above proved as counter-productive as it had done when he amassed over 400 runs at an average of more than a hundred in the Caribbean nearly two years ago and helped Australia reclaim the Frank Worrell trophy.

His brother had earlier taken a fearful blow on the back of the helmet from Benjamin but he had ducked into the ball and bouncers were at a premium before Steve came to the wicket.

Now he swayed this way and that to allow them to pass harmlessly while, at the opposite end, Healy, in characteristic fashion, delighted in the cut shot for which he had so much opportunity. His 47 was accumulated from just 66 balls and four of his seven boundaries came through the stroke. In contrast, Steve Waugh had faced 120 balls by stumps and had contented himself with just two boundaries.

Not for the first time, they had taken Australia from at least semi-darkness back into the light.

First day; West Indies won toss.

AUSTRALIA - First Innings

*M A Taylor b Walsh ................................43

M T G Elliott c Browne b Ambrose ................0

R T Ponting c Walsh b Benjamin 88

M E Waugh c Browne b Walsh 38

S R Waugh not out 48

M G Bevan c Samuels b Walsh 0

I A Healy not out 47

Extras (lb2 nb14 w2) 18

Total (for 5, 90 overs) 282

Fall: 1-4, 2-130, 3-146, 4-196, 5-196.

To bat: S K Warne, P R Reiffel, G D McGrath, M S Kasprowicz.

Bowling: Ambrose 21-2-63-1; Walsh 22-4-69-3; Bishop 15-1-49-0; Benjamin 22-5-64-1; Hooper 10-2-35-0.

WEST INDIES: R G Samuels, S L Campbell, B C Lara, S Chanderpaul, C L Hooper, J C Adams, C O Browne, I R Bishop, C E L Ambrose, *C A Walsh, K C G Benjamin.

Umpires: C Mitchley (SA) and S Randell (Aus). Replay umpire: P Parker.

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