Fighting half-centuries from both Ed Cowan and Ricky Ponting have steered Australia to a strong lead of 310 at stumps on Day 3 of the 3rd Test in Dominica.
Cowan and Ponting battled through difficult conditions to post an 87-run partnership, before Cowan’s innings was cut short by a terrific Darren Sammy catch at first slip.
Australia will go into Day 4 at 6-200, with Michael Hussey and Ryan Harris still at the crease.
Resuming on 8/168 the home side managed to add 50 before being dismissed for 218 just before lunch.
The Windies will need to complete their second highest successful run chase since their world record chase of an Australian lead of 418 in Antigua nine years ago, if they are to level the series.
The task for the home side is a formidable one given it has been a difficult tour for batsmen. Shivnarine Chanderpaul has been the exception, assembling 277 patient runs at 92.33 with one century and two half-centuries to further underline his class. Hussey’s 204 runs at 40.80 is the next best, although five other Australians have made 150 runs or more (plus Ponting’s total of 146). Chanderpaul is the only West Indies batsman to reach this mark and much of their hopes will rest on his shoulders.
While the locals have passed 50 on seven occasions, four of these came in the first innings of the 1st Test, when they posted 9 dec. for 449. From that point, the bowlers have tended to have the upper hand, with variable bounce and prodigious turn creating plenty of opportunities.
Nathan Lyon has taken 4/68 and 5/69 in his most recent efforts at the crease and is expected to play a key role in the deciding innings of the series.
The hosts managed to take some vital early wickets on Day 3 before Cowan and Ponting steadied the ship for the visitors.
Cowan was content with his performance on such a tough wicket.
“I’m satisfied to overcome that hurdle of mid-twenties sort-of-nothing scores to get a 50, on what is a bloody challenging wicket,” he said.
“Disappointing not to get a hundred, of course, but I don’t think it’s the kind of wicket that guys get hundreds on”, he said.
“Fifty on a wicket like that can be as good as a hundred.”
“Because of the time zone, (people) probably haven't watched a lot of cricket but they click on a link to see the score in the morning and they go 28, oh, Ponting 30, these guys are struggling.
"Well, it's bloody hard work and you need to see the ball spitting and turning the way it is to appreciate that.
"If you're just judging people's form by looking at the scorecard, then you're not doing the game full justice.”
The opener is confident that Australia can close out the series with their current lead.
“I think we’re in control, definitely. I think 300 already is a big score,” he said.
“If we can get to lunch unscathed with maybe 350, 360, if we play well, all of a sudden I think that’s a winning total.”
Prior to the match the Australian team paid tribute to fallen diggers as a part of their ANZAC Day memorial.
They gathered in front of an Australian flag as Matthew Wade read the Ode, local cadet Joseph Russell Raymond played the Last Post and Cowan shared the story of former Wallaby Stan Bisset who led a battalion through the Kokoda Trail in 1942.
Cowan was humbled by the whole experience.
"It was an awesome honour to present an ANZAC Day address to the Australian cricket team – that was a thrill in itself,” he said.
"What I did say was how important the day was for our generation, having not lived through a war, and not been crippled by that fear of not knowing if your mates or your brothers or sons going to return and how thankful we need to be for those who did live through that."
The Australian team also pinned poppies to their shoulders as a mark of respect.