Lyon bowls Australia to 164-run win over West Indies
SUMMARY: Australia 598-4 declared (Labuschagne 204, Smith 200*, Head 99, Khawaja 65) and 182-2 declared (Labuschagne 104*) beat West Indies 283 (Braithwaite 64, Chanderpaul 51) and 333 (Brathwaite 110, Chase 55, Lyon 6-128) by 164 runs
Nathan Lyon took six wickets to superbly lead a Pat Cummins-less attack as Australia were made to work against a gritty West Indies before recording a convincing 164-run victory in the first Test at Optus Stadium.
Looming as the attack’s talisman in the absence of Cummins, who took to the field on day five but did not bowl after experiencing quadricep soreness, Lyon starred with 6-128 off 42.5 overs.
He claimed the final two wickets in successive balls late in the second session as Australia claimed the series-opener.
Lyon had earlier taken the key wicket of captain Kraigg Brathwaite in the first session to sink West Indies, who were playing their first Test in Australia since January 2016. He continued his strong record at Optus Stadium having now taken 22 wickets from three Tests.
They swung mightily to ruin Lyon’s figures and power West Indies past 300 runs as Australia looked flat without Cummins.
Australia perhaps started to think of the ghosts of their recent inability in bowling out opposition in the fourth innings. But the part-time spin of Travis Head, who had earlier dismissed Jason Holder, did the trick and he broke the pesky stand by bowling Joseph.
Cummins did not bowl to increase doubt over his availability ahead of the day-night second Test starting on Thursday at Adelaide Oval. Like he did late on day four after starting the innings in the dressing room, Cummins was on the field but appeared to move gingerly at one point in a chase to the boundary.
West Indies started day five at 192 for 3 and needing 306 runs for an unlikely victory with their hopes revolving around Brathwaite who batted through two sessions on day four.
But the task perhaps predictably proved too difficult despite their best rearguard efforts. Kyle Mayers had a fortunate early escape after surviving an lbw shout from Lyon with replays later showing that he had inside edged to silly point.
Lyon had the last laugh when Mayers edged a good length delivery to first slip. It was Lyon’s 443rd Test wicket to move him past fellow offspinner R Ashwin and into eighth spot on the all-time Test wicket-taking list.
After aggressive batting late on day four, Brathwaite reverted to his trademark defensive approach in an effort to blunt Australia’s attack. Having effectively collared Lyon the previous day, particularly countering the bounce with superb sweeps, Brathwaite finally counterattacked with a belligerent boundary over long on.
But Brathwaite’s brilliant knock soon ended when he was bowled by Lyon and West Indies’ faint chances of avoiding defeat went with him as he trudged off the ground to a loud ovation from the smattering of fans who took advantage of the day’s gold coin entry.
After Brathwaite’s dismissal, Jason Holder attempted to stonewall but fell rashly to Head with Steven Smith taking a brilliant diving catch at slip and it was just a matter of time before Australia sealed victory.
In the first Test match in Perth since December 2019, there was much hype over the surface heightened by 10mm of grass left on it. But despite occasional sharp bounce, the pitch lacked the expected fireworks with bowlers made to toil for wickets.
After gritty batting across their two innings, defying pre-match expectations, West Indies’ rued sloppy bowling and poor fielding as their attack claimed just six wickets in 189.4 overs.
They had no answer to Australia’s top-order, particularly Marnus Labuschagne who made 308 runs for the match to continue a personal run spree at Optus Stadium after he scored 143 and 50 against New Zealand three years ago.
Smith also scored a double century in the first innings and Australia’s dominance was underlined by allrounder Cameron Green not getting a chance to bat in his first home Test.
A beleaguered West Indies will need to rebound quickly after their 25-year Test drought in Australia continued. Adding to their woes, West Indies have fitness concerns with spearhead Kemar Roach forced off on day four after injuring his left thigh, while Mayers did not bowl in Australia’s second innings due to a strain in his right teres major muscle.
Top batter Nkrumah Bonner was on day three substituted out of the match with concussion after being hit in the back of the helmet from a Green short delivery.
After limited fanfare in the buildup, crowds were modest with about 40,000 fans attending during the match. There was anticipation on how local fans would react over the fallout of ex-coach Justin Langer’s recent inflammatory interview, but there wasn’t any visible sign of animosity towards the Australian team.
Despite being pushed perhaps longer than expected, Australia ultimately made a strong start to the Test summer after a difficult recent period on-and-off the field. (ESPNcricinfo)