Some fine batting by Ryan Harris and an electrifying spell of bowling from Ben Hilfenhaus looked to have turned the first Test with the West Indies in Australia’s favor on an engrossing fourth day on Tuesday.
West Indies finished the day on 71 for five in their second innings, leading by just 114 runs after Australia’s tail wagged and Hilfenhaus knocked over their top order.
Earlier, captain Michael Clarke declared Australia’s first innings at 406 for nine, with his side still trailing by 43 runs.
It was an aggressive move, allowing his bowlers to attack the West Indian batsmen either side of tea, and Hilfenhaus took advantage in the 25 minutes leading up to the break, removing the top three.
Harris — who had earlier hit an unbeaten 68 — added the important scalp of Shivnarine Chanderpaul shortly after tea.
“To get him out second innings for not many was a huge wicket, because I think they batted around him a fair bit,” Harris said.
He thought that the declaration had set the West Indies on the back foot.
“To declare and put them in straight away, it probably didn’t give them a chance to get their head around batting. I think it showed, obviously, taking three or four quick wickets. I think it was a good declaration. We want to win the Test match,” he added.
West Indies’ coach Otis Gibson thought that the 145 overs in the field had an impact on the top order.
“Hilfenhaus came out and bowled a great spell, some tired legs, batsmen didn’t move their feet and so on and he got a couple of wickets. This is why it’s called Test cricket. It’s tough. It’s tough on you mentally, it’s tough on you physically. That three hour session this morning was tough on the guys, but they hung in,” he said.
It was a remarkable turnaround in fortunes as Australia had at one point been 199 runs behind, with only three first-innings wickets remaining.
The West Indies had looked like wrapping things up quickly when they took two early wickets in the morning session, especially as one was the redoubtable veteran Mike Hussey.
However, Harris steadied the ship and played positively from the start of his innings, as he and Matthew Wade added 35 runs for the eighth wicket.
Wade fell for 28 in his first Test innings when he took a wild drive at a wide Fidel Edwards ball that Darren Bravo took easily at second slip.
Harris and Hilfenhaus played gutsy innings as they gradually reduced the deficit, with Harris passing his top score in Test cricket, made in his last innings against India in Adelaide.
The ninth-wicket partnership of 44 was finally broken when Hilfenhaus, on 24, played an extravagant shot and Roach’s delivery took out the middle stump.
The West Indies still had a 120-run lead when last man Nathan Lyon came to the crease, but he and Harris played so well that Lyon hit his highest first-class score of 40.
They had added 76 runs when Clarke decided to declare and Hillfenhaus took center stage.
Barath was comprehensively bowled through the gate for 2 and two balls later Kraigg Brathwaite, who had played such a patient innings first time around, had an uncharacteristic go at a wide delivery and Wade took the catch.
Kirk Edwards was the next to go as he moved across his stumps to another Hilfenhaus delivery and was given out LBW.
Harris struck a major blow when he bowled the perfect line to Chanderpaul, who edged to Wade to leave the West Indies reeling at 17 for four.