reports from St John's, Antigua
Australia 216 and 273-7
West Indies 260
(At tea interval)
A downpour during the tea interval added a further fascinating equation to the second Test here yesterday, interrupting play with the match on a knife's edge, with Australia at 273 for 7, 229 to the good.
Neither team has gained a definite advantage all the way through the four days and still had not done so when the weather, which had lopped four hours off the third day, intervened again.
Australia resumed after the rest day 134 for 2, 90 ahead. Their coach, Bob Simpson, reckoned an overall lead of 250 would be sufficient for them to go ahead 2-0 in the series but the West Indies fought them like tigers, despite Curtly Ambrose's weakness.
The West Indies captain, Richie Richardson, used him for only seven overs in the first two sessions and chose to give the second new ball to Courtney Walsh, now his premier bowler, and Kenny Benjamin. His fellow Antiguan, Winston Benjamin, chose this moment to produce an incisive spell that probably saved his place in the team. David Boon and Mark Waugh had carried their overnight partnership from 90 to 106 when Benjamin dismissed both in the space of six overs. Boon, not for the first time lately, misjudged the line of one that came back into him and, padding up, was ruled leg before.
Thirteen runs later Waugh had no answer to a perfect yorker that took his middle stump. Boon had made 67, Waugh 61 and their dismissals swung the balance marginally back in favour of the home team.
When Greg Blewett was spectacularly caught by the leaping Stuart Williams at first slip cutting at Carl Hooper's off spin five minutes before lunch, Australia's lead was only 152.
After lunch the West Indies encountered two of Australia's most doughty fighters, Steve Waugh and Ian Healy, who turned the force of the match for the umpteenth time. It required the second new ball, in the hands of Walsh, to create problems. He made one lift sharply to Waugh's rib cage, found the glove but then hung his head in exasperation as the wicketkeeper Junior Murray missed a difficult leg-side chance. Waugh was then 38. It was Healy who fell edging Walsh to second slip for his ninth wicket in the match. Their partnership of 58 had carried Australia's lead to 210.
Australia seemed likely to go for tea with Waugh and Brendon Julian together but in the final over to the interval, Waugh's stroke through midwicket that seemed good enough for three was turned in to a run-out as Jimmy Adams' return from 80 yards to the wicketkeeper found Julian well short of his ground.
(Fourth 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
(Monday: 134 for 2)
D C Boon lbw b W Benjamin 67
M E Waugh b W Benjamin 61
S R Waugh not out 52
G S Blewett c Williams b Hooper 19
*I A Healy c Hooper b Walsh 26
B Julian run out 6
Extras (b1 lb8 nb10) 19
Total (for 7, 99.3 overs, at tea) 273
Fall (cont): 3-149 4-162 5-196 6-254 7-273.
To bat: P R Reiffel, S K Warne, G D McGrath.
Bowling (to date): Ambrose 19-3-42-0; Walsh 32-7-75-3; W Benjamin 20.3- 1-65-2; K Benjamin 15-1-51-0; Arthurton 1-0-1-0; Hooper 8-3-14-1; Adams 4-0-16-0.
Umpires: S Bucknor and D Shepherd (England).