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Every Aussie rated from second Test and series vs West Indies: Did Smith the opener get vindicated even in defeat?

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28th January, 2024
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For the first time in three years – and the first time against the West Indies since 1997 – Australia have been beaten in their own backyard.

The remarkable thing? It’s a safe bet that as Shamar Joseph knocked out Josh Hazlewood’s off stump to complete a remarkable eight-run victory for the tourists and sparking scenes of utter jubilation at the Gabba, many of us Aussies were only too happy to concede the points to a band of unsung heroes who’d pulled off something truly special.

But the issues that have bubbled beneath the surface for Australia all summer are now well and truly in the spotlight. What is going on with Marnus Labuschagne? Is the Travis Head party over? And is opening with Steve Smith and putting Cameron Green at number four really the long-term solution for a misfiring top order?

Some of those questions have already been answered; others, well, we’ll have to wait for two Tests against New Zealand in a month’s time to know more.

Here are The Roar’s player ratings for the second Test – and the full Frank Worrell Trophy.

Usman Khawaja

Second Test: 7

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Series: 6

The glue of Australia’s first innings, Khawaja’s well-compiled 75 played a big role in getting the hosts close to the Windies’ total despite precious little help from the rest of the top order – indeed, the other members of the top five mustered 17 between them.

His strike rate took a significant upturn after a relatively sluggish summer to that point, but while he can’t be faulted, it’s clear opposition sides don’t fear him anywhere near as much as they used to David Warner: he’s made a significant contribution of 40 or more in every first innings this summer, but only in Perth have Australia racked up a score of note.

Steve Smith

Second Test: 8.5

Series: 6.5

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The first Australian since David Warner in 2011 to carry his bat, it will be little comfort to Smith that he wasn’t able to single-handedly drag his team over the line like he has countless times in the past.

After two failures to begin life as an opener, the champion looked determined to fix some technical deficiencies in Australia’s run chase, with the result a chanceless 91 that brought his team to within reach of victory.

It at least means he’ll stay at the top of the order for the upcoming New Zealand series, and it would be a surprise to see him lose the job for the 2024/25 Border-Gavaskar Trophy.

Marnus Labuschagne

Second Test: 0.5

Series: 1

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For much of this summer, Labuschagne’s returns had only been miniscule by his own lofty standards: now, though, it’s clear he’s facing a prolonged form slump that has put his spot in the team in sudden jeopardy.

Managing just 3 and 5 and getting out in identical fashion – lazily wafting outside off to be spectacularly caught at slip by a diving Kevin Sinclair – makes the number three the Australian most culpable for the loss.

With India and England coming over the next two summers, Labuschagne had better find his form quickly, or a team that has relied on his runs for four and a half years now will be in serious strife.

Cameron Green

Second Test: 5.5

Series: 4.5

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Having looked well and truly out of his depth in the first innings at the Gabba, as well as in his only knock in Adelaide, Green’s painstaking 42 in the run chase was a positive step in the right direction for the man anointed as Australian cricket’s next big thing.

After starting his innings nervously under lights on Day 3, the all-rounder came out with renewed purpose on Sunday to put on 71 runs with Smith, and it was only once he was dismissed to a sharply nipping Shamar Joseph ball that Australia began to crumble.

Showed he remains a golden arm with the ball by removing a set Kraigg Brathwaite in the second innings, with his biggest blemish a bad dropped catch in the gully which took everyone by surprise.

Travis Head

Second Test: 1

Series: 6

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The only reason Head even gets a 1 here is because of the excellence of his short leg run out in the Windies’ second innings, which seemed to light a fire beneath Australia at a crucial stage.

But having become the third Australian to make a Test king pair, alongside Adam Gilchrist and Ryan Harris, Head literally couldn’t have had a worse time with the bat (at least if he’d made a diamond duck, he could blame a teammate for running him out).

Aside from his spectacular Adelaide century, this has been a rough old summer for the World Cup hero: can he turn it around ahead of a supremely tough next 24 months?

Mitchell Marsh

Second Test: 2.5

Series: 2

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The key man with the bat in every Test against Pakistan, the all-rounder couldn’t have anywhere near the same impact against the West Indies.

A counterattacking first-innings 21 off just 20 balls wasn’t long enough to have any bearing on an Australian win, while he copped a beauty from Joseph in the second dig for 10.

Has seldom bowled since Green’s return to the line-up, a surprise given how effective he was as a fifth bowling option to start the summer.

Alex Carey

Second Test: 7

Series: 6.5

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Depending on your opinion of Carey’s spot in the Test team, you’ll likely be focusing more on the wicketkeeper’s breathtaking 49-ball 65 in the first innings that rescued Australia from real trouble, or his second-innings 2 before being castled by Joseph that confirmed the hosts were in the muck.

65 from a wicketkeeper, though, is invaluable, so despite his Day 4 failure it would be impossible to cold Carey culpable for the last-day collapse.

Nearly dropped the sitter to end all sitters with the gloves, which would have cost him a mark had he shelled it.

Mitchell Starc

Second Test: 7.5

Series: 7

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The pick of the quicks on Day 1 with four wickets in the Windies’ top six, Starc’s love affair with the pink ball well and truly continued at the Gabba.

Added another scalp in the second innings to finish with five for the match, but probably bowled better than that, especially early in the match when Australia were on top.

As for his batting, his last-day 21 off just 14 balls was either recklessly irresponsible or a vital counterattack with the Windies surging. Or both. It might have been both.

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 25: Mitchell Starc of Australia celebrates taking the wicket of Alick Athanaze of the West Indies during day one of the Second Test match in the series between Australia and West Indies at The Gabba on January 25, 2024 in Brisbane, Australia.

(Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Pat Cummins (c)

Second Test: 6

Series: 7.5

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Trust Pat Cummins to take one wicket all Test and still be one of Australia’s key contributors – this time, with the bat.

Coming in with his team in strife at 7/161 and blasting a rapid fire 64 – his highest Test score and first half-century in the format since 2018 – the skipper’s misstep might have been in declaring on himself late on Day 2, which both cost him a chance at a ton and his team runs which would prove quite handy.

But any critics of his captaincy should also take a back seat – excellently marshalling his troops throughout the match save for some noted passivity during the 149-run stand on Day 1 between Joshua Da Silva and Kavem Hodge, it wasn’t his fault half his top order forgot how to bat.

Nathan Lyon

Second Test: 7.5

Series: 7

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After playing second fiddle to the quicks against Pakistan, Lyon showed why he is still a crucial piece of Australia’s attack on Day 3 at the Gabba.

Picking up first Kirk McKenzie and then Alick Athanaze with flight and guile, the former trapped LBW sweeping and the latter playing for turn and edging to slip, without the off-spinner’s three-wicket haul the Aussies would have been chasing a lot more than 216.

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Josh Hazlewood

Third Test: 8

Series: 8

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Impossible to get away, the big quick’s five wickets for the Test, off the back of a superb performance in Adelaide, came at a remarkable economy rate of under two runs per over.

All were caught in the cordon or by Carey to epitomise Hazlewood’s strength of metronomical accuracy, lifting bounce, and just enough sideways movement to catch the edge.

Didn’t deserve to be the final wicket that fell.

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