Carl Hooper summoned the application and concentration he has not often been able to marry to his obvious natural talent to accumulate his first Test hundred against Australia yesterday.
But his diligence and that of his phlegmatic left-handed partner Shivnarine Chanderpaul, with whom he added 172 for the fourth wicket, was rendered virtually useless by a typically mind-boggling collapse of the West Indies lower order after tea on the third day of the first Test.
Once Hooper was wonderfully caught an inch from the grass by Ricky Ponting, diving forward full length from midwicket, having made 102, the innings went into the kind of terminal tailspin reminiscent of their World Cup semi-final against the same opponents last March.
Seven wickets went for 28 runs from 74 balls and, with an Australian advantage of 210 with two days remaining, West Indies will be hard pressed not to suffer an immediate setback in the series.
As familiar as it was, the capitulation was sudden and unexpected. After the potentially crippling loss of Brian Lara for 26 half an hour into the day, taken at slip off a ball from Glenn McGrath deflected from inside edge and thigh pad, Hooper and Chanderpaul, with their contrasting styles but identical aims, solidly steered the West Indies towards a position of comfort.
Only rarely did Hooper lapse into the slackness that has so often proved his undoing in Test cricket. His most glaring indiscretion almost cost him his hundred. On 99, he scrambled a suicidal single and was only cleared by the television replay after an agonising wait.
Chanderpaul compensated for Hooper's lack of elegance with intense concentration and secure defence. His physical frailty restricted him to four boundaries from the 220 balls, but he offered little encouragement to the bowlers.
The pair batted through the morning after Lara's departure and all through the afternoon. They had been together for four hours when Hooper fell to Steve Waugh's medium pace for the sixth time in Tests.
Catches win matches is an age-old adage, and Ponting's was a beauty. So, too, does luck, which ran in Australia's favour throughout the first day and returned to help in the rapid demise of the West Indies innings.
When Steve Waugh pulled up with a strained groin after the first ball of his over following Hooper's removal, Mark Taylor called on Ponting to finish the over. He forced Jimmy Adams on to the back foot and Cyril Mitchley gave the first of his three lbw decisions.
The tide had begun to turn and the West Indies were unable to resist it. Chanderpaul, after four and three-quarter hours compiling an 82 that equalled his previous highest in Tests, edged a drive off Paul Reiffel to second slip and the end came quickly with two generous lbw decisions for Shane Warne and two more wickets for Reiffel.
Taylor considered his options and went for the safest in deciding to bat again. His next decision will be the timing of his declaration, a pleasant position to be in.
Third day; West Indies won toss.
AUSTRALIA - First Innings 479 (I A Healy 161no, R T Ponting 88, S R Waugh 66; C A Walsh 4-112).
WEST INDIES - First Innings
(Overnight: 61 for 2)
S L Campbell c Warne b Reiffe 18
R G Samuels c Healy b McGrath 10
B C Lara c M Waugh b McGrath 26
C L Hooper c Ponting b S Waugh 102
S Chanderpaul c M Waugh b Reiffel 82
J C Adams lbw b Ponting 0
C O Browne c Healy b Reiffel 4
I R Bishop lbw b Warne 0
K C G Benjamin lbw b Warne 9
C E L Ambrose c Gillespie b Reiffel 0
*C A Walsh not out 0
Extras (lb8 w1 nb17) 26
Total (108.1 overs) 277
Fall: 1-30 2-43 3-77 4-249 5-255 6-267 7-268 8-268 9-277.
Bowling: McGrath 21-7-32-2; Reiffel 24.1-6-58-4; Kasprowicz 22-5-60-0; Warne 27-3-88-2; S Waugh 8.1-1-15-1; M Waugh 4-1-16-0; Ponting 1.5-1-0-1.
AUSTRALIA - Second Innings
*M Taylor not out 4
M Elliott not out 2
Extras (lb2) 2
Total (for 0, 6 overs) 8
To bat: R T Ponting, M E Waugh, S R Waugh, M G Bevan, I A Healy, P R Reiffel, S K Warne, M Kasprowicz, G McGrath.
Bowling: Ambrose 3-1-3-0; Walsh 3-1-3-0.
Umpires: C Mitchley (SA) and S Randell (Aus).Reuse content