Cricket : Australia have a field day

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With a strangely constructed and much criticised team which included only two bowlers with worthwhile Test credentials, Australia routed the West Indies on the opening day of the fourth Test here yesterday and virtually secured the match and the series in less than two sessions.

Technically and temperamentally unsound, the West Indies batsmen were all out for 130 after 47.5 overs, barely an hour into the second session.

On a ground renowned as the most favourable for batting in Australia, against an attack having to make do without the injured Curtly Ambrose, Australia forged into the lead by nine runs for the loss of only two wickets off the 40 overs available to them.

With accomplished batting stretching down to Ian Healy at No 8, the Australians go into the second morning in buoyant mood. They lead 2-1 in their quest to retain the Frank Worrell Trophy they regained in 1995 and can hardly squander their superiority now.

Their selection hinted at a defensive attitude when they restricted themselves to two fast bowlers, Glenn McGrath and the debutant Andy Bichel, the contrasting wrist spin of Shane Warne and the left-arm of Michael Bevan.

It proved to be more than enough.

Influenced by Ambrose's enforced absence, caused by a blow he received on his thigh in the World Series final in Melbourne last Monday, Courtney Walsh chose to go against standard West Indian practice and bat first after winning the toss.

It was a situation that demanded disciplined application from the batsmen to provide a reasonable total. It is a baffling contradiction that three of them, Jimmy Adams, Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Brian Lara, all average better than 50 in Tests, and the little opener Sherwin Campbell 46, and yet the West Indies have managed to pass 300 only once in their last seven Tests against Australia. Between them, the four contributed only 39 yesterday.

The Australian determination was clearly sharpened by the widespread criticism attracted by their defeat in the third Test in Melbourne and their failure to reach the World Series finals. They proclaimed their mood by all taking the field in their distinctive baggy green caps, their traditional badge of honour.

Once McGrath had removed Campbell and Bichel the left-handed Adrian Griffiths, Warne and Bevan tightened Australia's grip. In the course of 16 consecutive overs, Warne accounted for the three left handers, Lara, Chanderpaul and Adams, before Bevan's left-arm googlies confused the inadequate tail end to earn him the last four wickets for a single run off 28 deliveries.

The critical moment was Lara's dismissal, or more particularly the manner of it. For more than half an hour he had settled to his task, seeing off McGrath, who had accounted for him five times in the previous Tests. But the introduction of Warne after 16 overs triggered Lara's machismo. He essayed a wild heave to Warne's first ball and dragged a simple catch to mid-on. It was a stroke of culpable irresponsibility from which the West Indies never really recovered.