W Indies forced to retreat by Boon

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TONY COZIER reports from St John's, Antigua

Australia 216 and 134-2

West Indies 260

The fascinating, fluctuating second Test continued to shift one way and then the other on a rain-interrupted third day here yesterday.

By the end Australia had regained the initiative they had held and lost at least four times since the start of the match on Saturday. An unbroken third-wicket partnership of 91 between two foes familiar to the West Indies, David Boon and Mark Waugh, sent them into the rest day with a lead of 90, eight wickets standing and the advantage, actual and psychological, of bowling last.

Between the showers that held up play three times and restricted it to 13 overs during the first four and a half hours, the West Indies - or, to be more precise, Courtney Walsh - removed Australia's openers, Mark Taylor and Michael Slater, even before the first-innings deficit of 44 had been erased. After that, as the clouds broke and the sun bathed the Antigua Recreation Ground once more, the solid Boon, in his 99th Test, and the stylish Waugh, in his 46th, held at bay a West Indies attack that, Walsh excepted, was unusually flat.

Walsh, the 32-year-old perennial, had undermined Australia's first innings with his 6 for 54 that led to their decline to 216 all out on Saturday. He was again into the action at the start yesterday in conditions unusually humid and cloudy for the Caribbean at this time of the year.

In his second over he induced a hook from the left-handed Taylor which was gloved to the keeper. It was the second uncharacteristic indiscretion by the Australian captain who had been caught off a similar stroke on the fine leg fence in the first innings.

The first rain shower soon followed. But on the resumption, for 2.2 overs before the rain came again, Walsh accounted for Slater with spectacular assistance from his captain, Richie Richardson. Fending down a chest-high lifter, Slater seemed to have kept the ball wide enough and low enough to gain a boundary to the vacant third man. Instead, Richardson spotted the chance from the moment it left the bat, hurled himself full-length to his right like an Olympic swimmer at the gun and clutched the ball inches from the ground in his extended right hand as he tumbled over.

As Slater departed so did everyone else as the rain, now heavier and more persistent, arrived again. Yet it then held off enough for the umpires, the Jamaican Steve Bucknor and the Englishman David Shepherd, to order the removal of the covers and announce play would resume after an early lunch.

An almost indistinguishable leak through the covers in the middle of the pitch caused some concern but was quickly mended under Bucknor's supervision by ground staff using typically ingenious West Indian methods. This involved a small fire lit in a tin over the offending spot.

When the rain did clear Waugh got off the mark with a six off Walsh but took a blow on the left shoulder from the next ball, a beamer that brought a stern warning from umpire Shepherd to the contrite bowler. But the clouds were still low and another interruption was inevitable. It came at 60 for 2 and play was not resumed for another hour and a quarter.

After that the Australians batted without the slightest bother. If there was a chance for the West Indies to dislodge them it was no more than half a chance, Boon's firm flick off the legs from Kenny Benjamin being too fast for Jimmy Adams at square short-leg to sight, far less hold.

Boon arrived at his half-century when Winston Benjamin petulantly kicked the ball away into vacant space on the off side and gave him the welcome single. It epitomised growing West Indian frustration.

(Third day; West Indies won toss)

AUSTRALIA - First Innings 216 (C A Walsh 6-54).

WEST INDIES - First Innings 260 (B C Lara 88).

AUSTRALIA - Second Innings

(Overnight 16 for 0)

*M A Taylor c Murray b Walsh 5

M J Slater c Richardson b Walsh 18

D C Boon not out 60

M E Waugh not out 42

Extras (b1 lb2 nb6) 9

Total (for 2) 134

Fall: 1-22 2-43.

To bat: S R Waugh, G S Blewett, I A Healy, B P Julian, P R Reiffel, S K Warne, G D McGrath.

Bowling: Ambrose 12-1-33-0 (1nb); Walsh 15-5-39-2 (3nb); K Benjamin 5- 1-20-0 (1nb); W Benjamin 10-1-38-0 (1nb); Arthurton 1-0-1-0.

Umpires: S Bucknor (WI) and D Shepherd (Eng).

Match referee: Majid Khan (Pak).

n Shane Warne, Tim May and Mark Waugh, the Australian trio who alleged that they received offers of bribes from the former Pakistan captain, Salim Malik, are not to undergo cross-examination in Pakistan the Australian Cricket Board official Graham Halbish said yesterday. Pakistan's cricket authorities wanted the three to give evidence at a hearing but Halbish declined the Pakistani request, maintaining that nothing could be gained by the presence of the players.