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One hundred and still not out

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by Earl Robinson

By the time readers have a view of this article, the first Test between West Indies and Australia at Brisbane would be completed. This match is the 100th Test between these two cricketing nations dating back to December 12, 1930.

Australia with a rating of 127 are ranked number one and the visitors with 74 are at number eight on the ICC Test championship table. With such difference in rating (53), the tourists may be considered the under dogs in this series.{{more}}

In recent times the West Indies have not done well against Australia. Fans in the Caribbean have very little to celebrate. Almost everything has gone Australia’s way since 1995.

Victory in the final Test in Jamaica in 1995 under Mark Taylor’s leadership allowed the Aussies to regain the Frank Worrell trophy. Since then, they have not loosened their grip on the coveted title.

Subsequent to that series, Courtney Walsh, Brian Lara (twice) and Jimmy Adams have tried to lay hands on it but all have failed. In fact, the last visit Down under in 2000-01 ended in a whitewash. Cricket Australia has decided to send the team to Hobart Tasmania for the second Test instead of Sydney or Melbourne, a more distinguished venue. Our team is no longer a force to reckon with as it was in the 1980’s. This gesture is similar to sending a touring team to Bequia or Tobago.

Shivnarine Chanderpaul who is still in his first year as captain will have to be positive and dynamic in his approach. Many times he has left the proceedings to meander then he loses the initiative and the match.

Against Australia, a team that seemed to be in a rampant mood versus the ICC World XI, captain Chanderpaul will have to react quickly to the state of play else his team would not stand a chance of regaining the Frank Worrell trophy. Nothing is impossible. We have just seen England regaining the Ashes after losing it to Allan Border’s team in 1989.

As of last week, Chanderpaul’s record read; won 1, lost 5 and drew 2.

Obviously, this series was the last for Lara on Australian soil. At age 36, he is on the verge of becoming the most prolific run scorer in the history of Tests. In his 118 Tests his aggregate of runs is 10,859, just 315 behind Australia’s Allan Border’s world-record of 11,174.

Last year he became the fastest to record 10,000 runs, this he achieved at Old Trafford in his 195th innings. It was his 111th Test appearance. Sachin Tendulkar (10,134) also reached the landmark in the same number of innings. Only Border, Steve Waugh (10,927) and Sunil Gavaskar (10,122) belong to this elite club.

Lara’s 2,470 runs have placed him eighth in the top ten Test run scorers against Australia. All the others are Englishmen – Sir Jack Hobbs holds the record with 3636 runs.

Two other stalwarts in this are Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne. McGrath needs only three wickets to become the first bowler from any country to capture 100 Test wickets against the West Indies. Lara, the Prince of Trinidad and Tobago has been the major casualty. He has dismissed him 13 times, eight of these dismissals (all caught) were in Australia.

McGrath’s first 5 wicket-haul was in Barbados during the 1995 series. It was an effort that made him a permanent fixture on Australia’s team.

Like McGrath, Warne cemented his place in Australia’s team after his first five-wicket haul. Yet again the West Indies were the opponents. His 7 for 52 at Melbourne in 1992 set up a victory by 139 runs. Before that match he had taken five wickets at an average of 77.20.

Warne has become a household name wherever cricket is played. It is true that England have suffered the most from his wrist-spin (172 scalps) but his moderate success against West Indies has left him one wicket short of 50 in 16 Tests.

In the recent Ashes series he took 40 wickets in five tests. Only Sydney Barnes 49 (England), Jim Laker 46 (England) and Clarrie Grimmett 44 (Australia) have taken more wickets than he has in a five match series. His tally is 629 wickets.

If the last 20 Tests are a guide to this series, it is expected that none of the matches will be drawn. Dating back to the third Test in Trinidad in 1995 to the thriller in Antigua in 2003 all have ended in positive results. Australia have won 14 with West Indies taking the rest.

Australia’s recent slump in the Ashes series against England may work to the West Indies advantage but it is said: never corner a wounded tiger, in this case, wounded kangaroos.

Surely Ricky Ponting’s men will offer formidable resistance. Evidence of this was exhibited against the ICC World XI.

It has been a dismal 10 years (1995-2005) in the history of West Indies cricket. One can only hope for improvement over the next month. This will only come about with resilience and consistency. The saying goes: no guts, no glory!

Finally, I should leave you with these statistics. Of the 99 matches played, Australia have won 45, West Indies won 32, there were 21 draws and one tied. Brisbane was the venue for the tied Test. Frank Worrell (WI) and Richie Benaud (Australia) were the captains. The match dates were December 9 to 14, 1960.

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