For the first three days at Kensington Oval, West Indies were on top. When they dismissed Michael Hussey early on the fourth morning and held a 200-run lead with only four more Australia wickets to take in the first innings, West Indies were in a position from which they simply should not have lost the match. But Australia’s fighting qualities, Michael Clarke’s aggressive declaration and the home side’s fragility combined to create a memorable finale to the Test, as Australia bowled West Indies out cheaply a second time and then chased down 192 with the light fading late on the fifth afternoon.
Sammy and the coach Ottis Gibson must find a way to instil belief in West Indies players whose confidence was shot by those last two days in Barbados. The spin-friendly conditions in Trinidad might help them, for Devendra Bishoo bowled well in the first Test without reaping significant rewards. It could boost Nathan Lyon too, who did not have his finest Test and needs to regain his self-confidence. Most importantly, West Indies have to find a way to play out five days of a Test at high quality. In 2008, they matched Australia for a few days of each Test but were always let down by a trough at some point in the game. It happened again in Barbados last week.
Australia can take a lot from the way they fought back from a losing position. Theirs is a side with a mixture of experience and youth, and they have now won five Tests in a row, not losing since New Zealand surprised them in Hobart in early December. Clarke’s captaincy credentials were already high and have been boosted further by his declaration when still behind in Bridgetown, in an effort to force a result. His confidence appears to be rubbing off on his men. If they win in Trinidad they will retain the Frank Worrell Trophy and will win the series, so West Indies cannot afford to be slow out of the blocks in this match.
How do you solve a problem like Shivnarine Chanderpaul? Eventually Australia managed to do so in the second innings in Bridgetown, when he was squared up by Ryan Harris, but he had already made an unbeaten first-innings century. It was the fifth hundred Chanderpaul had made in the seven home Tests he has played against Australia. His last nine home innings against them read 104, 118, 11, 107 not out, 77 not out, 79 not out, 50, 103 not out, 12. If Chanderpaul finds a partner who is willing and able to stick with him, Australia could face a long, long time in the field.
Ricky Ponting is the only member of this Australia squad who has played a Test in Trinidad, and it was one of his very best. Back in 2003, Ponting scored 206 and 45 at Queen’s Park Oval, and it was his first Test double-century. Last week in Barbados he was the unfortunate victim of a Shane Watson-scripted run-out and in the second innings was bowled when a ball stayed very low. However, he is coming off one of his finest Test series, against India, and will be keen for a long stay in the middle.
West Indies have included the offspinner Shane Shillingford in a 14-man squad and given the nature of the pitch they will consider a two-man spin attack in Shillingford and Devendra Bishoo, with Narsingh Deonarine as a backup. Should they include Shillingford, Fidel Edwards might be the man to miss out, for Kemar Roach was more of a threat in Barbados.
West Indies (possible) 1 Adrian Barath, 2 Kraigg Brathwaite, 3 Kirk Edwards, 4 Darren Bravo, 5 Shivnarine Chanderpaul, 6 Narsingh Deonarine, 7 Carlton Baugh (wk), 8 Darren Sammy (capt), 9 Shane Shillingford, 10 Kemar Roach, 11 Devendra Bishoo.
Australia will consider two spinners as well, but including Michael Beer at the expense of one of three in-form fast bowlers would be a big call. Were they to make that decision, Ben Hilfenhaus might be the unlucky one to miss out, given that the pitch will also help fast men who attack the stumps, but the more likely scenario is that no change will be made from the side that won at Kensington Oval.
Australia (possible) 1 Ed Cowan, 2 David Warner, 3 Shane Watson, 4 Ricky Ponting, 5 Michael Clarke (capt), 6 Michael Hussey, 7 Matthew Wade (wk), 8 Peter Siddle, 9 Ryan Harris, 10 Ben Hilfenhaus, 11 Nathan Lyon.
Pitch and conditions
The Trinidad pitch was very dry on the day before the Test and is expected to provide significant assistance to the spinners, so much so that it even drew comparisons to Kanpur from Australia coach Mickey Arthur. Rain is expected to affect every day of the Test.
Stats and trivia
Shivnarine Chanderpaul needs 176 runs to become the second West Indies player to reach 10,000 in Tests. Given that he averages 81.40 per innings in home Tests against Australia, it is not out of the question he could reach the milestone in this match
Of the five home venues at which West Indies have played the most Tests, their record is the worst at Queen’s Park Oval, where they have won only 18 of 57 Tests
“We spoke about it, we just need to be mentally prepared to bat in two innings of a Test match.”
West Indies captain Darren Sammy
“I think in [sharply spinning] conditions you just have to have a plan and stick with it through thick and thin, and that’s probably been my attitude towards spin bowling my whole career. I do get out to spin bowling but I do find I have a plan against spin bowling and I’m going to back that.”
Australia captain Michael Clarke