The West Indies kept the pressure on Australia on the third day of the first Test in Bridgetown, Barbados, on Monday, with the tourists restricted at the close to 248 for five in 95 overs.
Skipper Michael Clarke (73) was the backbone of Australia’s batting as they labored in reply to the West Indies’ 449 for nine declared.
Resuming on their overnight total of 44-0, Australia suffered an early setback when West Indies skipper Darren Sammy struck twice to remove both openers.
Sammy’s nagging line outside off-stump finally teased Ed Cowan (14) into an edge to wicketkeeper Carlton Baugh and then Sammy struck again with a similar delivery to Dave Warner (42), who found Darren Bravo at second slip.
The home team certainly smelt blood when Ricky Ponting was run out for 4 after Shane Watson hesitated while calling his partner for a second and left the former Australia captain stranded.
At 84 for three, Australia needed to get their heads down, and Watson and Clarke ground out 49 runs in 18.2 overs before lunch.
That set a possible foundation for the experienced pairing, but Watson needlessly chased the second ball from Kemar Roach after lunch, gifting Baugh another catch as he departed for 39.
Sammy was disappointed when Clarke, on 27, was given out caught behind off Devendra Bishoo, but had the decision overturned on a review showing little of a conclusive nature.
Clarke took advantage of the reprieve and put on a patient 82-run partnership with Mike Hussey for the fifth wicket, but the hard work was undone when the Clarke unwisely tried to go over the top against Bishoo and found Narsingh Deonarine in the deep.
It was a needless shot and although Hussey (47 not out) and Matthew Wade (19 not out) saw it through to an early close because of bad light, Australia have plenty of work to do on the fourth day.
Clarke, was disappointed with the way he got out, but believes his team can still win the Test.
“I think Michael Hussey and I were building a pretty good partnership, maybe it was a lapse of concentration, I got done in [the] flight, so it was a pretty good ball from Bishoo, but once you are in, you have to make the most of it, and go on and get big scores,” Clarke said.
Clarke said his batsmen had been restricted by some smart bowling by their opponents on a surface which was starting to help the bowlers.
“I thought all the West Indies bowlers did a fantastic job on a wicket that has probably deteriorated a little bit, there is a little bit of inconsistent bounce,” he said. “We are going to have to bowl better than we did in the first innings and make as many runs as we can in this innings. I certainly think we can still win the Test match from here.”
For the West Indies, looking an improved unit so far in this series, the key is clearly to try to finish off Australia quickly.
“Early wickets will be crucial tomorrow,” Sammy said. “Five wickets today was good, but there is still a lot of work to do.”