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First-up failure: Smith falls cheaply in opening gambit as Windies show spirit to fight back from woeful start

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17th January, 2024
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Steve Smith failed in his first attempt to prove he can bat at the top of the order in Test cricket with the converted opener falling cheaply on day one of the First Test against the West Indies at the Adelaide Oval.

The surprising decision, prompted by the veteran batter himself, to promote Smith to replace the retired David Warner ahead of specialist openers drew a lot of criticism and the 34-year-old did little to show it will be a long-term solution when he was dismissed for just 12.

After the early loss of Smith, the Australians lost Marnus Labuschagne for 10 to be 2-59 by the close of play after earlier bowling the Windies out for 188.

In true Smith fashion, he delayed facing his first delivery as an opener because of movement behind the sightscreen. He looked relatively untroubled in the first few overs of his maiden knock at the top of the Test order, sending a couple of Alzarri Joseph deliveries to the midwicket boundary to shake off some nerves.

But he was squared up by impressive debutant Shamar Joseph’s first delivery in Test cricket with another rookie, Justin Greaves, swooping on a superb low catch at third slip to direct Smith back to the pavilion with 25 runs on Australia’s tally on the famous old scoreboard.

Joseph, who smacked an entertaining 36 with the bat at No.11 earlier in his dream first day of Test cricket, tore off in celebration like Courtney Walsh famously did on the same ground 30 years ago when the Windies beat Australia by one run in one of the most famous matches in history.

He was in raptures again when he had Labuschagne out on the fine leg boundary, hooking straight to Gudakesh Motie to give Joseph stunning figures of 2-9 after four lively overs of pace.

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It could have been worse for Australia at stumps with Usman Khawaja lucky to survive in the second over of the innings after edging Alzarri Joseph but keeper Joshua da Silva grassed a difficult diving chance.

Australia’s other batter in a new spot, Cameron Green, came in at four and with stood 22 deliveries to be unbeaten on six to resume with Khawaja (30) when day two gets underway on Thursday.

After the Windies lost their first nine wickets by midway through the second session on day one, an air of resignation set in that this will be another lopsided mismatch. 

The outclassed Windies didn’t bat terribly and they showed some fight with a frustrating last-wicket stand as they were bowled out for 188 on the opening day at Adelaide Oval.

They’re not in the same league as the world’s best Test team and Australia will have to play poorly or the Caribbean crew will have to play out of their skins to avoid defeat.

ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 17: Steve Smith of Australia looks on after being dismissed by Shamar Joseph of the West Indies during the Mens Test match series between Australia and West Indies at Adelaide Oval on January 17, 2024 in Adelaide, Australia. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

Steve Smith looks on after being dismissed by Shamar Joseph. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

And after the Aussies lost top-order wickets late on the first day, victory to the home side can no longer be assumed to be on the cards. 

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The Aussies were barely celebrating the wickets as they tumbled in the second session, perhaps not wanting to be seen to be rubbing in their dominance, before the Windies saved face with a 10th-wicket fightback to ensure they swung the momentum back in their direction.

Pat Cummins, as he showed at the ODI World Cup final, is not afraid to defy history at the toss and he became the first captain to bowl first at Adelaide in 44 years. 

“We thought the wicket was going to do the most this morning,” fellow quick Josh Hazlewood said.

“A lot of people play Shield games here with the red ball and think it gets flatter as the game goes on so the best time to probably take 10 wickets is straight up, if we get it right.

“To get 10 (wickets) today backed up that decision.”

(Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

Although the traditionally batting-friendly pitch had slightly more grass than usual, Windies skipper Kraigg Brathwaite was surprised and none too fussed by Cummins’ decision, saying he would have batted if the coin had been in his favour.

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Cummins continued his golden summer by finishing with 4-44 while Hazlewood became the 10th Australian to take 250 Test wickets as he came back after an ineffective first spell to bag 4-41.

The West Indies’ chances of putting up a decent fight on day one rested with the opening duo of Kraigg Brathwaite and Tagernarine Chanderpaul.

They had a few dicey moments with nicks off the new ball in the opening half-hour. 

With Khawaja assuming David Warner’s vacated first slip position, he nearly had a chance to open his account in his new spot but a Brathwaite snick from Mitchell Starc failed to carry.

Like the batting order, the cordon had been rejigged to fit Cameron Green in. He returned to the gully with Mitchell Marsh switching to third slip on the other side of Smith.

And Green’s height and safe hands made their mark in Cummins’ first over, swallowing up an edge from Chanderpaul to send him on his way for six.

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“As good a gully fielder as we’ve ever seen in Australia,” said his former coach, Justin Langer, on Seven commentary. “If that was me in the gully it would have been one bounce for four. That is a great catch. It’s flown at him but he’s taken it so easily.

“I can’t remember anyone as consistently brilliant as Cameron Green in that position.”

(Photo by Mark Brake – CA/Cricket Australia via Getty Images)

After sending down a rare shocker which flew down leg side beyond Alex Carey’s gloves to the boundary, Cummins produced a pearler to remove Brathwaite for 13 which seamed away off the pitch, past the outside edge of his forward defence to clip the top of off stump. 

For lovers of fast bowling, this is the kind of delivery they could watch on repeat for hours on end. 

Windies great Ian Bishop, who was one of the most fearsome quicks on the planet 30 years ago, was in awe of Cummins’ clinical precision.

Bishop remarked on Seven commentary that the Australian skipper was his first choice if he had to show a young player a fast bowler on which to model their game.

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Alick Athanaza became Hazlewood’s milestone wicket when he gifted him the honour by shouldering arms to a ball from around the wicket which clattered into the left-hander’s off stump on 13 to reduce the Windies to 3-52.

First-gamer Kavem Hodge (12) presented Green with another gully offering off Hazlewood after putting on an encouraging 46-run resistance with Kirk McKenzie. 

After reaching an enterprising 50, McKenzie didn’t trouble the scorers any more when he snicked Hazlewood to Carey and Justin Greaves went no further than five in his debut Test innings after driving Hazlewood to Marnus Labuschagne at short cover. 

Da Silva skied Cummins to Travis Head in the deep to make it 7-132 and with tailenders Motie (1) and Alzarri Joseph (14) with only one more run added, the end looked nigh.

But the unlikely duo of veteran seamer Kemar Roach and the third of the Windies debutants, Shamar Joseph, chalked up the best partnership of the innings to not only extend the first innings tally but the second session past the scheduled tea break.

Their 55-run stand, highlighted by a six each and five combined boundaries, finally ended when Nathan Lyon trapped Joseph in front for 36 with Roach unbeaten on 17.

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The 10th-wicket average partnership of 19.4 runs against Australia in the past 12 months is the highest of any Test team.

“In the bowlers’ meetings, we go down to (batsmen number) eight and nine,” Hazlewood said.

“We probably should keep going and have a look at 10 and 11, we have had a few issues there.

“All the bowlers can just bat these days … they can all hang on to it (the bat), they have all got good confidence.”

Last-wicket stands vs Australia in past 12 months

86 – Aamir Jamal and Mir Hamza (Pak) at SCG
66 – Jimmy Anderson and Jonny Bairstow (Eng) at Old Trafford
55 – Shamar Joseph and Kemar Roach (WI) at Adelaide Oval
38 – Ollie Robinson and Ben Stokes (Eng) at Headingley
25 – James Anderson and Josh Tongue (Eng) at Lord’s

with AAP

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