Windies on the receiving end

by Tony Cozier in Hobart
Stabroek News
December 10, 2000

THE multitude of West Indies' problems on their Australian tour have long since shattered confidence and undermined ftness. There was glaring evidence yesterday that they have now undermined the judgement of their normally clear-thinking captain as well.

It is the only valid explanation for Jimmy Adams' choice to commit his team to bowling on winning the toss for the first time in a major match on tour. The upshot was a first day total of 306 for four by the strong Australia `A' team. The left-handed opener Jimmy Maher led the way, helping himself to 150 over five and a quarter hours with a six and 15 fours and sharing successive partnerships of 166 with his fellow Queenslander, Martin Love (76) and 90 with captain Damien Martyn (37).

Such a glut was inevitable from the moment Adams returned from the middle to announce to those players still fit enough to make up the eleven that they would be in the field.

It was also widely predictable - and predicted. The Australian reserves were half-hour into their innings when Ian Chappell, the former Australian captain, was describing Adams' decision on television as "ridiculous and stupid".

"I'm staggered they didn't take the opportunity to bat first," he added.

Adams' defence afterwards was that he detected some moisture in the surface, expected three or four early wickets but was let down by the inconsistency of his bowlers.

The arguments against were numerous and irrefutable.

The pitch at the Bellerive Oval is renowned and proven to be the most agreeable for batting in Australia as Adams knew from previous experience. In the corresponding match four years ago Australia 'A' compiled 316 without losing a wicket on the first day and finally declared at 544 for four - and they won the toss. In the last and only match before the last three Tests, it was the ideal chance to allow his harrassed batsmen, all desperately in need of the boost of a few runs runs, rehabilation in favourable conditions away from the persecution of Glenn McGrath, Brett Lee and company.

Instead, Adams considered it more appropriate to take on the eager Australian batsmen with an attack manned by three rookie fast bowlers, Marlon Black, Colin Stuart and Kerry Jeremy, all on their first overseas tour, himself and Marlon Samuels, the 19-year-old less than a day on Australian soil whose off-spin is occasional. Courtney Walsh was taking the rest that, aged 38 and with three back-to-back Tests to follow, is due and des rving. Nixon McLean was still down with the flu and Merv Dillon's tender ankle allowed him no more activity than strolling around the boundary offering bottled water to those in need.

Ramnaresh Sarwan and Mahendra Nagamootoo were still incapacitated with their own ankle strains, although now walking without the aid of crutches and wheelchairs, so both wicket-keepers were in the starting eleven. Courtney Browne took the gloves while Ridley Jacobs patrolled the covers with the same enthusiasm and safety as against the Prime Minister's XI in Canberra on Thursday.

Brian Lara did condescend to play but, still favouring his lingering, five-month-old hamstring injury, did not fully participate in pre-match training. He might have expected to enjoy himself batting but simply moved from slip to slip before during the day before heading for the dressing room at the last refreshment break, bringing Julian Fountain, the fielding coach, into his place as substitute. With the lengthy injury list, the enthusiastic Fountain, an Englishman, has been clearly visible on the field, as he was at Canberra on Thursday, prompting queries in the Australian press as to the last time a white man wore West Indies colours on the field (it was Steve Camacho in England in 1973). Given all the circumstances, and even with such an imposing total, it was not an entirely wasted day for the West Indies. Colin Stuart bowled with his customary zeal, if not control, to claim three of the four wickets. But he was expensive, conceding 79 off his 19 overs.

In his first first-class match since he had his jaw broken batting against Western Australia a month ago, Jeremy was tidy but wicketless in four spells and Samuels sent down 22 respectable, if non-threating, overs, more than in any of his previous five first-class matches.

Black was below pace, and par, for his 16 overs, Adams allowed himself 12 overs of his slow left-arm stuff and gave Wavell Hinds, an underused right-arm medium-pacer, three speculative overs in which he dislodged Martyn, the one Test batsman in his side, to a loose cut shot struck low to point.

Adams complained afterwards of what he always rightly complains about with every aspect of his team's cricket - inconsistency.

"We bowled too many four balls," he said. "I would have settled for 250 for four at the end but not over 300."

There were 29 fours in all, plus Maher's six over long-on off Samuels. The majority, as usual, came from short balls that allowed the batsmen freedom to cut and pull. Several found the ropes at third man, left vacant for most of that day.

Stuart hit the stumps for all of his wickets. Jamie Cox, the Tasmanian captain, considerably reduced the potential attendance by playing on to a full length ball as early as the eighth over. It took another 52 overs before Stuart, and the West Indies, got their second wicket, Love dragging one back in the second over of the fast bowler's fourth spell 10 minutes before tea.

After Martyn's dismissal, Stuart collected his third victim in the fourth over with the second new ball, sending a yorker under the tiring Maher's bat and into middle and off stumps. It left left-hander Simon Katich, the young batsman closest to the Test team, and Brad Hodge, who first of four centuries for Victoria this season was against the West Indies, unbeaten to resume on the second morning. It was not an encouraging prospect.

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