Cricket: Langer sets up victory charge

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Australia 303 and 306 West Indies 222 and 37-0

JUSTIN LANGER completed his third Test century yesterday to put Australia in a strong position to square the series and retain the Frank Worrell Trophy.

However, the Australians, who are 2-1 down in the four-Test series, suffered a late collapse and were bowled out for 306 in their second innings in St John's, Antigua, leaving the home side a target of 388 for victory. The West Indies will have to achieve their highest ever fourth-innings total to win.

Langer's innings of 127, which ended when he was bowled by Carl Hooper, was overshadowed by a superb opening spell by Curtly Ambrose, who took the wickets of the Waugh twins. Mark fell for 65 and Steve for four.

The 35-year-old Ambrose, bowling in front of his home fans, was on song from the start and bowled five straight maidens. He had Mark Waugh, trying to cut the ball, snapped up by the wicketkeeper Ridley Jacobs.

Ambrose also gave Langer a torrid time in the 90s, beating him three times in one over, although the 28-year-old Western Australian did manage to take the first run off him in the morning session.

Langer reached three figures with a quickly run single and punched the air in delight. His century came off off 252 balls in 330 minutes and included seven fours and one six.

Ambrose, though, was not to be denied, and he had Steve Waugh caught by Jacobs in the following over. Langer tried to maintain some form of momentum with a six and a four off Hooper as the West Indians threatened to dry up the run rate completely.

Shortly before lunch Hooper managed to get the ball to spin and clean bowled Langer. He also claimed two more wickets as the tourists lost their late batsmen quickly. Ian Healy was caught by Jimmy Adams for 16 and Stuart MacGill was caught in the deep by Nehemiah Perry in attempting a wild slog.

Courtney Walsh picked up three cheap wickets to end the Australian innings. The West Indies, making a steady start to their reply, suffered a setback when Adrian Griffith was struck on the elbow by Glenn McGrath and retired hurt, but they did not lose a wicket prior to the tea interval.

Fourth day; Australia won toss

AUSTRALIA - First Innings 303 (S R Waugh 72no, J L Langer 51; C E L Ambrose 5-94).

WEST INDIES - First Innings 222 (B C Lara 100).

AUSTRALIA - Second Innings

(Overnight: 209 for 2)

J L Langer b Hooper 127

M E Waugh c Jacobs b Ambrose 65

S R Waugh c Jacobs b Ambrose 4

R T Ponting not out 21

I A Healy c Adams b Hooper 16

C R Miller c Lara b Walsh 1

A C Dale c Hooper b Walsh 0

S C G MacGill c Perry b Hooper 2

G D McGrath b Walsh 2

Extras (b2, lb1, w3, nb11) 17

Total 306

Fall (cont): 3-223, 4-241, 5-265, 6-287, 7-288, 8-288, 9-296.

Bowling: Ambrose 27-10-55-3; Walsh 32.4-6-78-4; Hooper 30.4-7-69-3; Adams 8.2-2-13-0; Collymore 16-1-60-0; Perry 7-0-28-0.

WEST INDIES - Second Innings

A F G Griffith retired hurt 10

S L Campbell not out 24

D R E Joseph not out 3

Extras 0

Total (for 0, 17 overs) 37

Umpires: S A Bucknor and D L Orchard (SA).