reports from Kingston, Jamaica
On the verge of a massive, thoroughly deserved and satisfyingly significant victory over the West Indies in the decisive final Test here, Australia spent an anxious rest day monitoring the weather yesterday.
The West Indies resume today on 63 for 3, 203 in arrears and with Richie Richardson and Brian Lara already gone. Rain is their only realistic hope of salvaging a draw that would retain their remarkable record of not losing a series anywhere since 1980 and at home since 1973. Heavy morning showers drenched much of the capital.
That caused understandable anxiety among the Australians, especially those involved in the corresponding Test here four years ago. Rain during the rest day then, and inadequate covers, caused the fourth day to be abandoned and play was not resumed until after lunch on the fifth.
For Australia to be denied by the elements would be a travesty. They have outplayed the West Indies in every facet, in this match and for most of the series. Their superiority has been established by well-planned, disciplined cricket against opponents who have shown neither.
The West Indies have held the Frank Worrell trophy for eight consecutive series since 1978. To regain it has become Australia's holy grail. Their attitude was summed up by Steve Waugh, whose 200 was the basis of Australia's 531. "When I was batting I thought 'I have had too many tough times against these guys to throw my wicket away.' I really wanted to cash in," he said.
The end of an era will come as a shock to the fanatical West Indian public, most of whom have no conception of defeat. "For some time there have been basic deficiencies," Jeffrey Dujon, wicketkeeper in the great 1980s teams, said. "These have been veiled by individual brilliance or ignored in the euphoria of constantly winning."
(Third day: West Indies won toss)
WEST INDIES - First Innings 265 (R B Richardson 100; B C Lara 65)
AUSTRALIA - First Innings
(Overnight: 321 for 4)
S R Waugh c Lara b K Benjamin 200
G S Blewett c W Benjamin b Arthurton 69
I A Healy c Lara b W Benjamin 6
B P Julien c Adams b Walsh 8
P R Reiffel b K Benjamin 23
S R Warne c Lara b K Benjamin 0
G D McGrath not out 3
Extras (b11 lb6 w1 nb26) 44
Fall: 5-417 6-433 7-449 8-523 9-523.
Bowling: Ambrose 21-4-76-1 (8nb), Walsh 33-6-103-3 (3nb, 1w), K Benjamin 23.5-0-106-3 (13nb), W Benjamin 24-3-80-1, Hooper 43-9-94-1, Adams 11- 0-38-0 (2nb), Arthurton 5-1-17-1.
WEST INDIES - Second Innings
S C Williams b Reiffel 20
*R B Richardson c and b Reiffel 14
B C Lara lbw b Reiffel 0
J C Adams not out 13
W K M Benjamin not out 1
Extras (b8, lb 7 15
Total (for 3) 63
Fall: 1-37 2-37 3-46.
To bat: C L Hooper, K L T Arthurton, C O Browne, C E L Ambrose, C A Walsh, K C G Benjamin.
Bowling: Reiffel 6-1-18-3; Julien 3-0-17-0; Warne 4-2-12-0; Mark Waugh 1-0-1-0.
Umpires: Steve Bucknor (Jamaica), Karl Liebenberg (South Africa). TV replays: Johnny Gayle (Jamaica). Match referee: Majid Khan (Pakistan).