Richardson alone on the bridge

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The Independent Online
RICHIE RICHARDSON doggedly held together the West Indies innings on the first day of the decisive fourth and final Test against Australia yesterday. After Shane Warne's vital dismissal of Brian Lara a quarter of an hour before lunch, Richardson could find no one to stay long enough with him for a meaningful partnership. He was left to do it almost alone, reaching the first century in this low-scoring series after tea.

With 11 overs remaining, he was lbw to Paul Reiffel with the second new ball for an even 100. At the close, the West Indies could not be satisfied with their total of all-out total of 265 on a lovely batting pitch. It was Richardson's 16th hundred in his 80th Test and his ninth against Australia. The West Indies captain, returning in this series after his lengthy lay- off last year for acute fatigue, batted with determination and purpose. At tea, he was 68 after four hours' diligent application.

He has been obliged to promote himself to open the innings and has struggled to make the adjustment. He lost his young partner Stuart Williams to the second ball of the match, caught at silly point off the glove from Paul Reiffel's awkward lifter, and then watched in silent admiration as Lara cut loose.

An early wicket is seen as a mixed blessing by opponents these days, for it simply brings in Lara. He wasted no time in dispatching balls to every part of the ground, to the delight of a packed, jubilant Sabina Park and the consternation of the Australians, who could see their chance of taking the series (level at 1-1) rapidly disappearing.

Lara completely dominated a partnership of 103 at run-a-minute pace with Richardson. Australian captain Mark Taylor introduced Warne as early as the 12th over, by which time Lara already had 37. Warne's influence so far has fallen well short of expectations and he entered the match with only nine wickets in the preceding three Tests.

Lara had stroked nine fours in his 65 when, pushing forward to a leg break, he snicked the ball into his pad. There were no close catchers except Taylor at slip, and wicket-keeper Ian Healy had to throw himself forward to take the catch. While Richardson held firm, his side lost the wickets of left-hander Jimmy Adams and Carl Hooper just when both appeared to have settled in. Adams, greeted like royalty by his home town crowd of 18,000, played an untypical pull stroke and lobbed a catch to mid-on off the tall left-arm fast bowler, Brendon Julien, after scoring 20.

Hooper once more exasperated his legions of followers. He was in for an hour and a half in making 23 but with five minutes to go before tea a slack drive resulted in an edged catch to third slip.

In the final session, Keith Arthurton edged a low catch to the keeper off McGrath and Warne claimed his second wicket when he ended a tortured debut for the new wicket-keeper Courtney Browne which lasted 40 minutes but produced only one run. Surprisingly, Taylor gave the second new ball first to medium-pacer Steve Waugh, who immediately obliged by removing Winston Benjamin, who was trapped leg before. The end was quick in coming.

WEST INDIES - First Innings

S Williams c Blewett b Reiffel 0

*R Richardson lbw b Reiffel 100

B Lara c Healy b Warne 65

J Adams c Slater b Julien 20

C L Hooper c M Waugh b Julien 23

K L T Arthurton c Healy b McGrath 16

C O Browne c Boon b Warne 1

W K M Benjamin lbw b S Waugh 7

C A Walsh c Boon b S Waugh 2

C E L Ambrose not out 6

K C G Benjamin c Healy b Reiffel 5

Extras (lb 9, b 1, nb 9, w 1) 20

Total (85.4 overs) 265

Fall: 1-0, 2-103, 3-131 4-188, 5-220, 6-243, 7-250, 8-251, 9-254

Bowling: Reiffel 13.4-2-48-3 (nb4); Julian 12-3-31-2; McGrath 20-4-79- 1; Warne 24-6-71-2; S Waugh 11-5-14-2; M Waugh 4-1-11-0.

AUSTRALIA: *M Taylor , M Slater, D Boon, M Waugh, S Waugh, G Blewett, I Healy, B Julian, P Reiffel, S Warne, G McGrath.