Cricket: Hughes serves up hometown heroics

MERV HUGHES, the archetypal Australian with a popularity to match his ample moustache and figure, converted the dominance of his side's first-innings total of 395 into complete command in the space of five overs at the start of the West Indies' reply on the second day of the second Test yesterday.

Accorded the unaccustomed privilege of using the new ball in the absence of the injured Bruce Reid and spurred on by a home- town crowd of 29,919, Hughes dispatched the top three in the order to leave the West Indies tottering at 33 for 3 before their two left-handers Brian Lara and Keith Arthurton saw through the last hour without further loss, if not further alarm.

Hughes's third ball cut back into the opposition's most experienced and, perhaps, most vital batsman, Desmond Haynes, struck him on his forearm and diverted back into the stumps.

It was Haynes's third single- figure innings in the series. Perhaps he is pining for his old partner, Gordon Greenidge, in Australia on other business and watching from the stands.

In Hughes's fourth over Greenidge's unconvincing replacement, Phil Simmons, pushed a firm catch from bat and pad to David Boon at forward short-leg. In his fifth Hughes found the edge of Richie Richardson's bat for wicketkeeper Ian Healy to claim a catch so close to the ground that numerous television replays could neither confirm nor condemn the collaborative affirmative decision of the standing umpire, Steve Randall, and his square-leg colleague, Col Timmins.

Neither Richardson, whose brief stay included the obligatory hook for six, off Craig McDermott, nor his partner Lara appeared convinced of the legality of the catch.

Hughes's spell consolidated the Australian revival that began from the insecurity of 115 for 4 on the previous afternoon and was expertly co-ordinated by the captain Allan Border in a partnership of 204 with Mark Waugh.

Test cricket's most durable player, Border turned his team's fortunes around as he has so frequently done in his 135 Tests. Starting at 51 overnight, he advanced to his 25th Test century with all the broad-batted assurance and dogged determination on which his formidable record is founded. By the time he was caught off his glove by the wicketkeeper David Williams off Ian Bishop after six hours and 50 minutes of near flawless batting he was only 25 runs away from the 10,000 mark that only Sunil Gavaskar of India has previously reached.

Waugh, who is 10 years his captain's junior at 27, also completed a century with 112, his third hundred in 16 Tests. But it lacked conviction and was achieved only after Williams missed a chance off Bishop a half-hour into the day when he was 71 and after enduring a tortured time against the persistent hostility of Curtly Ambrose.

The full implications of little Williams's muffed attempt to poach Waugh's deflection from the lap of Lara at first slip were evident as Australia lost their last six wickets for 76 once Ambrose claimed his belated reward by finally dismissing him, ironically to a spectacular right-handed catch by Williams.

The last five wickets went down for 33 once Border departed after his first three-figure innings in Australia since his 205 against New Zealand in Adelaide five seasons ago.

Struggling to cope with their lack of pre-match preparation and a slow pitch on the opening day, the West Indies bowled with more life and purpose. Ambrose so disoriented Waugh in his opening burst of seven overs that the Australian took to backing away and essaying desperate cross-batted swipes. He edged between Williams and Lara, gloved an involuntary stroke just wide of the diving keeper and was in an embarrassing tangle that only ended when Ambrose was rested.

It got no better when Ambrose returned following lunch and, after beating him three times in six balls outside the off stump, the beanpole Antiguan finally got his man. Waugh had been in for six hours 35 minutes all told, striking nine fours, but Ambrose and his companions would have noted his extreme discomfort against the rising ball for future reference.

Border had no such anxiety and, in spite of two men posted back behind square-leg, kept pulling and hooking with impunity. The value of this effort could not be accurately measured in terms of his main scoring strokes, five fours and a straight six off Carl Hooper, but was emphasised by Hughes's late afternoon burst.

WASIM AKRAM, the Pakistan pace bowler who took a career-best 5 for 19 from nine overs as Pakistan beat New Zealand by 50 runs in a one-day match in Wellington on Saturday, said the win had given his side renewed confidence after a poor spell. 'We bowled really well, fielded really well and the win is what we needed,' he said after New Zealand were skittled out for just 108 in reply to Pakistan's moderate total of 158.

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