Cricket: Lara the key victim in a Waugh of attrition

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PLACED INTO a position of invincibility by a record fifth-wicket partnership of 281 between their new captain Steve Waugh, who fell one short of his second Test double-century, and Ricky Ponting, 104, Australia seized complete control of the Third Test with four West Indies wickets in the last 26 overs of the third day yesterday.

Dismissed for 490 just after tea with their last six wickets falling for 65, Australia reduced the West Indies to 80 for 4 by close. The gravity of the situation was compounded for the home team as Brian Lara, whose phenomenal 213 inspired an unlikely series-levelling victory in the Second Test, was the last of the Australians' victims.

The left-handed opener Adrian Griffith, returning for his second Test after an absence of two years, ran himself out off his second ball, thrown out by Ponting as he attempted his first run. After a swashbuckling 26 by Dave Joseph, Glenn McGrath earned clear-cut lbw verdicts against him and nightwatchman Pedro Collins off successive balls, bringing in Lara.

Collins' promotion with eight overs remaining on a clear, sunny afternoon hinted at Lara's reluctance to join the fray. He stayed for 25 minutes, scoring eight, before the lively Jason Gillespie surprised him with a bouncer that took the glove.

Sherwin Campbell, 23, and Carl Hooper, 13, batted out the day but three difficult days lie ahead for the West Indies in spite of a pitch that has remained a faithful friend tro the batsmen.

Its character was emphasised throughout the six and a quarter hours Waugh and Ponting spent together. They came together at 144 for 4 midway through the first day and neither offered a chance.

Ponting's dismissal triggered the transformation after the West Indies had gone nearly 24 hours without a wicket. His composed 104, occupying 290 balls, ended when a sweep against the tall off-spinner, Nehemiah Perry, skewed off the top edge to backward square leg.

Healy, who had waited patiently with his pads on since Ponting joined Waugh, was a first-ball lbw victim, padding away Walsh, and Waugh's vigil came to an anti-climactic end in the next over when umpire Eddie Nicholls ruled him lbw on the back foot to Perry.

Waugh marched back to a standing ovation in obvious personal disappointment, but he must have known by then his team already had enough to test the West Indies seriously.

Waugh and Ponting passed two records during their stand. They first broke the ground best for the fifth wicket, 185 between the West Indians Everton Weekes and Collie Smith against Pakistan in 1958 and then went past the 220 between Keith Miller and Ron Archer that had stood as Australia's best for the wicket in all Tests against the West Indies since 1955.

Perry finished with the best figures, 3 for 102, but Ambrose and Walsh were always the most threatening West Indian bowlers, whose statistics did them no justice at all. It was tough work for the two veterans, both in their mid-30s, in the 30-degree heat of a day of typical Caribbean sunshine.