Cricket: West Indies regroup for thrilling finale

Australia 479 & 217 for 6 dec West Indies 277 and 89 for 1
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The Independent Online
An enthralling climax was in prospect at the end of the fourth day of the opening Test yesterday. The outcome was likely to be determined by the confrontation between the leading lights, Brian Lara, the brilliant West Indian left-hander, and Shane Warne, Australia's leg-spin wizard.

Australia's declaration after tea challenged the West Indies to score 420 to win or to survive a minimum of 119 overs to save the match and, if the first option appeared unrealistic and the latter extremely difficult, they ended the fourth day with Lara in occupation with 29 and the pitch still in prime condition. No team in the history of Test cricket has scored as many for victory but the Australians know that with Lara anything is possible.

The decision of the Australian captain, Mark Taylor, not to compel the follow-on after the dramatic West Indies collapse of the previous afternoon allowed the visitors to regroup and their four fast bowlers held the opposition in check to such an extent the declaration had to be delayed much later than planned.

Whatever the outcome, the West Indies revealed a resilience when all had seemed lost. Their collapse, when a position of comfort was transformed into crisis in the space of an hour, would have shaken morale, but Taylor presented them with a chance and their bowlers led a spirited revival.

At the start, Australia held the cards, ahead by 210 with all wickets standing. It was a recipe for trouble for the West Indies but they came with a plan for containment. Ian Bishop was the best of their bowlers, running in freely and rarely straying off line as he had done in the first innings when he laboured to find his rhythm. He was rewarded with the wickets of Matthew Elliott, the tall new left-handed opener, Ricky Ponting and Mark Waugh and, but for a dropped catch at first slip by Lara which allowed Michael Bevan to escape a pair, would have had four. Kenny Benjamin, even with a bothersome knee, plugged away for 13 overs either side of lunch and gained the return of Taylor's wicket, caught behind cutting.

It was left to Ian Healy to provide the late momentum. Following his unbeaten 161 in the first innings, the wicketkeeper made 45 from 50 balls which speeded the declaration.

The West Indies responded resolutely, losing only the opener Robert Samuels in an extraordinary over from Warne in which he pulled a six and a four off consecutive balls, was missed on the long leg boundary by Paul Reiffel and two balls later was caught at slip by Taylor.

That let in Lara, who proceeded to whet the appetite by racing to 29 from 36 balls by the end. His battle with Warne was sure to dominate proceedings on the final day.

Fourth 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 277 (C L Hooper 102, S Chanderpaul 82).

AUSTRALIA - Second Innings

(Overnight: 8 for 0)

*M A Taylor c Browne b Benjamin 36

M T G Elliott b Bishop 21

R Ponting c Browne b Bishop 9

M E Waugh c Browne b Bishop 57

M G Bevan c sub (Griffith) b Ambrose 20

I A Healy not out 45

P R Reiffel run out 11

Extras (b1 lb3 nb14) 18

Total (for 6 dec, 65 overs) 217

Fall: 1-55 2-74 3-82 4-147 5-189 6-217.

Did not bat: S R Waugh, S K Warne, M S Kasprowicz, G D McGrath.

Bowling: Ambrose 18-2-47-1; Walsh 17-1-58-0; Benjamin 15-1-52-1; Bishop 13-2-49-3; Hooper 2-0-7-0.

WEST INDIES - Second Innings

S L Campbell not out 28

R G Samuels c Taylor b Warne 29

B C Lara not out 29

Extras (nb3) 3

Total (for 1, 29 overs) 89

Fall: 1-54

To bat: C L Hooper, S Chanderpaul, J C Adams, C O Browne, K C G Benjamin, I R Bishop, C E L Ambrose, C A Walsh.

Bowling: McGrath 10-5-15-0; Kasprowicz 5-1-15-0; Reiffel 4-0-25-0; Warne 10-4-34-1.