Cricket: Australia wilt as Walsh joins the 400 club

Australia 174-6 v West Indies
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The Independent Online
COURTNEY WALSH, the iron man of West Indies cricket, became the third bowler in Test cricket to claim 400 wickets as Australia struggled to 174 for 6 wickets on the opening day of the first Test here yesterday.

The 36-year-old Walsh, in his 107th Test since his debut in 1984 and carried along by a dodgy knee and a fragile hamstring, joined India's Kapil Dev, 434, and New Zealand's Sir Richard Hadlee, 431, as the only bowlers to achieve the standard when he claimed wicket-keeper Ian Healy lbw in his 20th over.

He inspired the revival of a depleted team pilloried by its public and torn asunder by internal divisions after its 5-0 Test drubbing on its recent tour of South Africa. Supported by the biggest first day Test crowd in years at the Queen's Park Oval, it was unrecognisable from the rag- tag band that was so humiliated in South Africa.

Walsh's long-time accomplice, Curtly Ambrose, and two of the younger brigade of fast bowlers, Merv Dillon and the new left-armer Pedro Collins, made Australia's batsmen struggle desperately throughout the day's 90 overs.

Although the heavy rain of Thursday had cleared into more typically brilliant Caribbean sunshine, its effect was still evident in the slowness of the pitch that made timing difficult and the heavily grassed outfield that reduced the value of the few authentic strokes played.

Batting after Steve Waugh won the toss in his first Test since succeeding the much acclaimed Mark Taylor as captain, Australia's difficulties were emphasised by left-handed opener Matthew Elliott's dogged 44 that lasted four and three-quarter hours, required 208 balls and included one boundary before he was lbw padding up to Collins.

Michael Slater and the left-handed Justin Langer went in the hour before lunch, the Waughs in the second session and Elliott and Healy in the third. Greg Blewett remained unbeaten on 43 with only the tail for support.

There were two wickets for Collins, whose left-arm over-the-wicket method added variety to the usual four-pronged pace attack, one for Dillon and, undeservedly, none for Ambrose who bowled a compelling opening spell.

Australia's problems were illustrated by the statistics. In each of the first two periods, they managed 51 off 29 overs with two boundaries, in the last, 72 off 32 overs with only three boundaries.

Ambrose and Walsh are playing the first first-class match since the South Africa tour a month ago but they have been in Test cricket long enough to be able to put the ball where they want in their sleep. Collins, 23, is a slim Barbadian with coat-hander shoulders and a slinging action. He looks a long-term prospect.

First day: Australia won toss

AUSTRALIA - First Innings

M J Slater c Dillon b Collins 23

M T G Elliott lbw b Collins 44

J L Langer c Jacobs b Walsh 5

M E Waugh lbw b Walsh 2

*S R Waugh c Jacobs b Dillon 14

G S Blewett not out 43

I A Healy lbw b Walsh 12

S K Warne not out 15

Extras (13lb 3nb) 16

Total (for 6, 90 overs) 174

Fall of wickets: 1-42, 2-51, 3-53, 4-74, 5-118, 6-153.

To bat: J N Gillespie, S E G MacGill, G D McGrath.

Bowling: Walsh 28-8-37-3; Ambrose 19-11-22-0; Collins 19-8-31-2 (nb2); Dillon 19-4-45-1; Adams 11-2-26- 0.

WEST INDIES: S L Campbell, S Ragoonath, *B C Lara, R I C Holder, J C Adams, D Joseph, R D Jacobs, C E L Ambrose, M Dillon, P T Collins, C A Walsh.

Umpires: E Nichols (West Indies), P Willey (England).

TV replay umpire: C Cumberbatch (WI).

Match referee: R Subba Row (England).

n New Zealand officials have been left embarrassed and angry after World Cup organisers ignored a request to keep a preliminary squad secret. The NZC had not told the players on the list because the international season is still on and it did not want players who missed out to be discouraged.