Australia and the West Indies shared the honors on a slow opening day to the second Test at Queen’s Park Oval in Trinidad on Sunday.
When stumps were drawn, both teams retreated to the dressing room satisfied, but not elated after a tough day in the Caribbean sun. Australia had 208 runs on the board, but the West Indies had five wickets.
Last week’s first Test in Barbados was a thriller which Australia won by three wickets and already the second Test looks like being another close encounter.
The revival of West Indies cricket has been slowly gathering momentum in the past two years and on Sunday it was their slow bowlers who did most of the damage.
Shane Shillingford, playing his first Test since 2010, captured two vital wickets and took a catch in the outfield to give his fellow off-spinner Narsingh Deonarine a wicket.
Paceman Kemar Roach also collected two wickets to rattle Australia’s top order, before the visitors dug themselves out of trouble with some disciplined batting.
Shane Watson made a watchful 56 off 172 balls, while captain Michael Clarke scored 45 from 99 deliveries.
All-rounder Watson, now padding up at three after stints at six and as an opener, batted for almost two and a half hours for just 56 runs.
“It was hard to get the pace of the ball because it was very slow,” he told reporters. “The ball was very soft from the time I came and it was only getting softer through the innings. It made it very hard to score and rotate through the strike with the fields that they set.”
Watson has often been criticized for doing the hard work, but failing to go on and make bigger scores, but this was not one of those times.
He has reached his half-century in Tests on 20 occasions, but he has only made two centuries.
The 30-year-old said under the circumstances, he was not disappointed by his latest effort because Australia had no choice other than to bat cautiously.
“It’s not like we were on the defensive and defended everything,” he said. “We were looking to score, but the way the wicket was and with the way the ball was, it was hard to pierce the field. So it made it quite difficult at times to score.”
When play ended, Mike Hussey, Australia’s last specialist batsmen, was unbeaten on 26 after being dropped on 5, while wicketkeeper Matthew Wade was 11 not out.
After winning the toss and electing to have first use of a dry batting wicket, Australia’s openers made a flying start, reaching 53 without loss when drinks were taken, but the hosts soon took over, dismissing David Warner for 29 and then his fellow opener Ed Cowan for 28 as it became increasingly more difficult to score freely.
Warner had a lucky escape in the first over from Fidel Edwards when he was given out caught behind by umpire Marias Erasmus.
Warner challenged the ruling and television reviews showed that he did not get an edge, but that he might well have been out leg before wicket.
The left-hander was allowed to stay and struck four boundaries in his 42-ball knock, before his good fortune ran out after the drinks break when Shillingford was introduced into the attack.
Shillingford, who was brought into the team at the expense of Devendra Bishoo, had not played a Test for 18 months after he was reported for a suspect bowling action and had to remodel his action.
He repaid the selectors’ faith when he turned the ball sharply and Warner edged to Darren Sammy at slip.