Cricket: Lara's best too late to save West Indies

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West Indies 130 and 154-6 Australia 517

Brian Lara at last brought the splendour of his strokeplay to a series that had been diminished without it, but it seemed insufficient to save West Indies from one of their most crushing defeats in the fourth Test.

Lara remained unbeaten on 65 at the end of the third day here yesterday but, with only wicketkeeper Junior Murray and three fast bowlers remaining as partners, the West Indies still required an unlikely 233 to make Australia bat again with two days remaining.

Lara's previous seven innings have brought him a miserly 86 runs and the last five had all ended in single figures. When he strode on to the sunlit Adelaide Oval a quarter of an hour before tea, the West Indies were already in a hopeless state, with a first-innings deficit of 387 and two second-innings wickets already down for 22. That soon became 42 for 3. The coveted Frank Worrell Trophy was long since out of reach and there was only bruised pride, common as well as individual, to play for.

For the remaining two and a quarter hours, the dapper left-hander first settled himself before initiating a breathtaking assault on Shane Warne and Michael Bevan, Australia's contrasting wrist spinners who had bemused the West Indians on the first day, when they were routed for 130, and were doing so again.

He pulled both the left-armer Bevan and Warne for six and shared his 11 fours between them. For an hour and 40 minutes he and the graceful Carl Hooper lifted the gloom of a one-sided match in which the West Indies have been utterly outplayed by opponents determined to capitalise on their 2-1 series advantage. As Hooper effortlessly caressed five boundaries and the partnership realised 96, the inevitability of a huge defeat was irrelevant. Reality was abruptly restored within the final 20 minutes as Hooper, Jimmy Adams and Ian Bishop were dismissed in the final seven overs.

After Australia were eventually all out for 517 half an hour after lunch, labouring 32.3 overs to add 87 to their overnight total, the West Indies second innings endured a frenetic start. Glenn McGrath's second ball spat viciously at Sherwin Campbell and fell back into his leg stump off his body without dislodging a bail. In the next over McGrath had the new left- handed opener, Adrian Griffith, taken in the gully and then Bevan accounted for Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Campbell to splendid slip catches by Mark Taylor.

A crowd of 18,000 was disappointed at the start of the day by the dismissal of home favourite Greg Blewett for 99. Kept scoreless through a testing over from Cameron Cuffy, he tried to push the decisive single off the last ball and was bowled off stump. Bevan remained at the end, unbeaten after labouring to 85.

Third day; West Indies won toss

WEST INDIES - First Innings 130 (M Bevan 4-31, S Warne 3-42)

AUSTRALIA - First Innings

(Overnight: 434 for 5)

G S Blewett b Cuffy 99

M G Bevan not out 85

I A Healey c Lara b Thompson 12

S K Warne c Hooper b Bishop 9

A J Bichel c Lara b Walsh 7

G D McGrath b Walsh 1

Extras (b2 lb15 w4 nb20) 41

Total (162.3 overs) 517

Fall: 1-35 2-78 3-242 4-288 5-288 6-453 7-475 8-494 9-507 10-517.

Bowling: Walsh 37.3-6-101-2 (nb5); Bishop 34-6-92-2 (nb11, w1); Cuffy 33-4-116-2 (nb4 w2); Thompson 16-0-80-1 (w1); Hooper 31-7-86-2; Adams 8-0-23-0; Chanderpaul 3-1-2-1.

WEST INDIES - Second Innings

A F Griffith c S Waugh b McGrath 1

S L Campbell c Taylor b Bevan 24

S Chanderpaul c Taylor b Bevan 8

B C Lara not out 65

C L Hooper lbw Warne 45

J C Adams c M Waugh b Bevan 0

I R Bishop c Bevan b Warne 0

Extras (b0 lb5 w0 nb6) 11

Total (for 6, 54.3 overs) 154

Fall: 1-6 2-22 3-42 4-138 5-145 6-154.

To bat: J R Murray, *C A Walsh, C E Cuffy, P I C Thompson.

Bowling: McGrath 17-4-31-1 (nb5); Bichel 8-4-16-0; Bevan 15-2-56-3 (nb1); Warne 12.3-2-46-2; Blewett 2-2-0-0.

Umpires: S Randell (Aus) and D R Shepherd (Eng).