Warne and McGrath back in the ruthless routine

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The Independent Online

They made a start to erasing the unexpected trauma of the summer's loss of the Ashes by convincingly disposing of the collection of disparate stars parading as the World team in the International Cricket Council Super Series in Melbourne and Sydney last month.

They have followed that by quickly shattering the illusion of a revival by a West Indies team now at full strength following the impasse over sponsorship that led to the boycott of the recent tour of Sri Lanka by the main players.

Hope of a competitive series had been encouraged by West Indies' powerful display against a strong Queensland side in the lead-up match, but it vanished after three days. Australia gained a first-innings lead of 225 yesterday, dismissing West Indies for 210 in reply to their 435.

Ricky Ponting, still the main target of the public's ire over the defeat in England, chose to bat a second time to assert Australia's dominance at the start of a home season in which the three Tests against West Indies will be followed by three against the more resilient South Africans.

As West Indies' effort duly degenerated into familiar mediocrity, Australia piled up 283 for 2 before the umpires decided the floodlights that shone through most of an intermittently sunny day were not adequate for play to continue. That put the home side 508 to the good with two days remaining, ample time to complete a crushing victory.

West Indies, stunned by an assault by Australia's last three wickets that yielded 141 on the second morning and then by a shocking lbw decision against Brian Lara, resumed at 180 for 7. Shane Warne conjured up his assorted tricks to mesmerise the last four West Indies batsmen, who contributed six runs bet-ween them, earning Test cricket's highest wicket-taker five in the innings for the 33rd time and leaving Glenn McGrath with the four he took on the opening day.

It stressed, once more, Australia's heavy dependence on the pair. Warne is 36, McGrath is 35, and there is growing concern around the country about the effects of their eventual departures, which will be sooner rather than later.

For West Indies, Denesh Ram-din, the 20-year-old wicketkeeper, remained unbeaten on 37, an impressive, level-headed innings in his third Test. He is the youngest member of the team, led the Under-19 side to the Youth World Cup final almost two years ago, and is seen by many as a future captain.

Ponting followed his first-innings 149 with an unbeaten 104, his 25th hundred and the first time he had achieved such a double in his 95 Tests. He shared a second-wicket partnership of 187 with Matthew Hayden, who helped himself to his 23rd Test hundred, scoring 118, and his third in successive Tests.

Hayden should not have got that far. Marlon Samuels missed him at gully on 54, and Ramnar-esh Sarwan's short-range throw at the bowler's stumps was off- target as Hayden stole his hundredth run after lingering 12 balls on 99. Ponting also had his luck. He was caught at second slip off one of Jermaine Lawson's seven no-balls at 18.

But any reputable club batsman would have fancied his chances in the circumstances. For 39 of the 66 overs Australia batted, Chris Gayle, who took both wickets, and Marlon Samuels wheeled away their casual off-spin from opposite ends. It was hardly Test cricket.

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