Do West Indies believe they can win? For a little while, as they cut through Australia’s top order in double quick time at the Gabba, it was just possible for the mind to drift back to the past. The quicks roaring in, a line of five slips stood well back and the ball climbing through past the edges, shoulders and heads of the batters, plenty of whom were soon in the dressing room.
Steven Smith missed one that nipped back, Marnus Labuschagne fended into the cordon and was brilliantly held by debutant Kevin Sinclair, who had already scored his maiden Test fifty, Cameron Green drove to mid-off and Travis Head glanced down the leg side first ball. Australia went to dinner on 24 for 4. A short while later Mitchell Marsh’s brief counterattack ended with a miscued pull to mid-on.
Then Alex Carey‘s off bail refused to drop. The ball from Shamar Joseph nipped past the inside edge and there was an appeal for caught behind because of the sound. West Indies didn’t review. The replay showed the zing bail spinning in its groove. Channel 7 clocked the ball was travelling at 115kph. Carey was on 8 and had the bail fallen they would have been 72 for 6.
“We only saw it on TV inside. No one knew,” Kemar Roach said. “There was a noise, but everyone thought it was the pad. Sometimes you need some luck and it didn’t go for us today. Would have been a different game, I think, at 70 for 6.”
At the end of the over Carey was on 10 off 15 balls; in another 23 deliveries he had brought up his half-century and the mood was changing. When he flicked to deep square leg and Mitchell Starc soon followed, the deficit was still 150. Yet before the close Pat Cummins, having flayed his career-best, felt confident enough to declare behind and have a crack at West Indies’ top with the new ball under lights.
“I didn’t go out there with that [his scoring rate] in mind,” Carey said. “I felt like I reacted pretty well to what was bowled at me and had good intent. Think we’ve seen that this summer with Mitch Marsh and Travis Head, they play that way. Would have been nice to get a few more but to be where we are after a difficult start, we are certainly in this game of cricket.”
Having made the major inroads, the West Indies were in a position rarely seen for visiting sides in Australia. Pakistan had a taste of it at the MCG when they had the home side 16 for 4, but Australia had taken a first-innings lead on that occasion. There was a realistic chance West Indies could earn a decisive advantage but, after Carey’s moment of fortune, they couldn’t stem the run rate. It finished as Australia’s fourth-quickest 250-plus total in Tests – two of those above it were in the second innings to set a target and the other back in 1902.
“We knew that the wicket gets better after the new ball disappears so we knew it would be hard work and Australia bat deep,” Roach said. “We haven’t won [in Australia] in a long time. We don’t really come here too often, but guys really want to come here and leave a mark. To win a Test match in Australia as a young side with a lot of debutants and guys who have played less than ten Tests, that would set a really good mark for us.”
Until the dying moments of the day it appeared West Indies’ openers would get through a nasty 35 minutes unscathed after Smith spilled a chance at second slip. Then Tagenarine Chanderpaul was given out caught behind on review to the smallest of spikes. West Indies lead by 35. Do they believe?