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Every Aussie rated from first Test vs West Indies: Call the cops, Josh Hazlewood - you've been stone cold robbed

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19th January, 2024
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It wasn’t quite as emphatic as many thought, but Australia seldom looked likely to be upset by the West Indies, with nine wickets from Josh Hazlewood and a century from a back-in-form Travis Head enough to secure a comfortable 10-wicket win.

Despite wrapping up victory in just two days and a session, there are still questions for the hosts to consider.

Head’s counterattacking ton papered over some cracks as the Australian top order misfired again, with Steve Smith’s return to open and Cameron Green’s recall at number four both producing slim returns at the first time of asking.

Usman Khawaja also finished the Test in hospital after copping a nasty blow to the jaw from Shamar Joseph, throwing his spot in the XI for the second Test into jeopardy – and as we learned from the decision to replace David Warner, choosing a new opener is bound to be controversial no matter who is picked.

With Marnus Labuschagne also failing, a score of 283 against an only reasonable Windies bowling attack, save for the exceptional performance of debutant Joseph, will have both the team and its selectors hoping for more runs in next week’s day-night Test at the Gabba, ahead of tougher assignments against New Zealand across the Tasman and India at home for the remainder of 2024.

Here are The Roar’s player ratings for the first Test.

Usman Khawaja – 6.5

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A scratchy if composed first-innings 45 was made to look a better innings by the failure of the rest of the batting order, Head excepted; but as the senior opener, Khawaja never felt likely to take the game away from the Windies.

Nevertheless, should that blow to the jaw rule him out of the second Test, his promises to be a tough void to fill, both as an opener and at first slip, where he has moved to fill Warner’s shoes.

Steve Smith – 3.5

Backing away due to movement near the sightscreen before a ball had been bowled was a vintage way for Smith to start his time as an opening batter; unfortunately, he couldn’t match it with some vintage Smith batting.

Copped a good ball to edge Shamar Joseph’s first delivery in Tests to slip – though it’s worth nothing both that openers are paid to be circumspect outside off stump and that Warner was rarely given that excuse when he fell cheaply later in his career – and while he looked more comfortable in the second innings with two boundaries in the chase of 26, he’ll certainly be hoping for more time at the crease in Brisbane.

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Marnus Labuschagne – 3.5

Destroyed the Windies last summer with two centuries and a double in just four innings, but there was no such flood of runs this time around for Labuschagne, loosely pulling a Joseph short ball to backward square for just 10.

Having looked to be back in form with three 60s in four hits against Pakistan in Melbourne and Sydney, he’d have been filthy to miss out, while he came in in the second innings with just one to win.

Gets a bonus half point for his insistence to review an LBW shout off Nathan Lyon on the last ball of Day 2, which, for perhaps the first time, proved a good DRS decision from the highly-strung Queenslander.

Cameron Green – 4

Green sceptics are unlikely to be silenced by a scratchy performance from Australia’s new number four in his only innings on his Test return.

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Desperate to get through to stumps on Day 1, he regularly played and missed prodding nervously outside off stump, and very nearly torched Khawaja with a suicidal single to get himself off strike.

When he edged Joseph behind off the fifth ball of the second morning, it felt inevitable – despite a pair of boundaries earlier in the over showing the undoubted talent that made the selectors so eager to get him back into the team.

Bowled just seven overs for the Test, but showed his partnership-breaking knack by enticing Kirk McKenzie, the visitors’ best bat, into a checked drive to cover.

Travis Head – 9

By his own admission, the South Australian’s popular century at his home ground was far from his fluent best; but with the team in a sticky situation at 6/168 and still 20 runs in arrears, this was a priceless knock to end a lean run this summer.

Made off just 134 balls and featuring 12 fours and three sixes, Head’s counterattacking was in stark contrast to the more sedate scoring of the top order, and on a pitch offering plenty to the bowlers where good balls were never far away, his approach led to a match-turning innings that once again proved his immense value to the team.

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A sharp catch under the helmet at short leg early in the Windies’ second innings capped off a memorable second day for the hometown hero; however, being adjudged Player of the Match might have been a step too far given the match one of his teammates had. More on that later.

Mitchell Marsh – 2

Having plundered runs for fun in the middle order all summer, Marsh finally failed to have an impact when he edged Justin Greaves to a close-in gully for just 5 – one ball after a near identical nick had fallen just short of the same fielder.

This was a tough match for the beloved Western Australian; bowling just two overs as the main quartet did the lion’s share of the work, he wasn’t given the chance to impact the game in his secondary skill.

Add to that a dropped chance at third slip that he made look more difficult than it was by going with one hand just completed a shocker of a Test – good thing he has six months’ worth of credits in the bank.

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Alex Carey (wk) – 4

Typically sound as a keeper, though with little to do short of snaffling the simple chances that came his way, Carey’s reliability behind the stumps is more integral to Australia’s fortunes than is properly given credit.

From a batting perspective, though, doubts remain; his 15 before edging Greaves behind was in stark contrast to fellow South Australian Head’s dynamic performance, and is unlikely to do anything to silence the calls for Josh Inglis’ more aggressive batsmanship to be given the nod instead.

Mitchell Starc – 5

Day-night Tests in Adelaide are Starc’s domain, but with the match played during daylight hours only for the first time in three years, the left-armer couldn’t have his usual impact in the city of churches.

Of his three wickets, two were tailenders, with keeper Joshua Da Silva’s uncontrolled hook shot on the third morning the other; he bowled better than that, with a number of plays and misses, but was still clearly the worst of the three quicks.

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Pat Cummins (c) – 8.5

For the first time all summer, the captain had to play second fiddle with ball in hand; but when the match was still up for grabs on the first day, Cummins was as crucial as anyone.

A first-day four-wicket haul after winning the toss and boldly choosing to bowl first saw him back up his decision with another brilliant spell; his ball to clean bowl opposite captain Kraigg Brathwaite adding to the long list of pearlers he has sent down this summer alone.

Managed his bowlers perfectly throughout, with the only criticism of his captaincy a continued desire to have the quicks bowl short at the tail, which allowed the Windies’ last pair to add 55 and 26 – more than for any other wicket across both innings.

Nathan Lyon – 6

Treated with more respect than Pakistan afforded him, the off-spinner played an unassuming role in Adelaide.

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Picked up three wickets – though removing No.11 Shamar Joseph twice isn’t quite a typical cleaning up of the tail given he proved the Windies’ second-best bat – but with the visitors batting for less than 100 overs across both innings, was scarcely needed.

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Josh Hazlewood – 9.5

So often the George Harrison in Australia’s ‘Fab Four’ bowling quartet, every so often Hazlewood proves that in just about any other attack, or any other era, he’d be the leading man.

That was the case in Adelaide; in both innings, the veteran quick’s metronomic accuracy and relentless quality bowling made mincemeat of the West Indies’ batting order, with eight of his nine wickets for the match coming in the top six – most caught behind the wicket poking nervously at an immaculate line with the perfect amount of seam movement.

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Really, the only visitor who took the fight to him was Shamar Joseph – had the No.11 not twice whacked him around Adelaide Oval for some late runs, Hazlewood’s match figures of 9/76 would have been even better.

Call the cops, Josh – you were stone cold robbed of that Player of the Match award.

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