Latest Match Report – Australia vs West Indies 1st Test 2022/23

Australia 598 for 4 Dec (Labuschagne 204, Smith 200*, Head 99, Khawaja 65) and 182 for 2 Dec (Labuschagne 104*) Defeat West Indies 283 (Braithwaite 64, Chandrapal 51) and 333 (Braithwaite 110, Chase 55, Lyon 6-128) by 164 runs

Nathan Lyon led an impressive attack short of Pat Cummins, taking six wickets as Australia were made to work against a formidable West Indies before beating Australia by 164 runs in the first Test at the Optus Stadium.

Stepping in as the attack’s talisman in the absence of Cummins, who came on on day five but did not bowl after suffering quadriceps pain, Lyon took 6 for 128 in 42.5 overs. He took the last two wickets in consecutive balls at the end of the second session as Australia claimed the series opener.

Lyon had earlier sunk the West Indies in the first session with the crucial wicket of skipper Craig Brathwaite, who was playing his first Test in Australia since January 2016. He continued his strong record at the Optus Stadium and now has 22 wickets in three Tests.

Australia looked set to seal victory shortly after lunch but Ruston Chase and Alzarri Joseph did the job, putting on an 82-run eighth partnership.

He took a powerful swing to destroy Lyon’s tally and take the West Indies past 300 as Australia looked flat without Cummins.

Australia may have begun to reflect on their recent inability to dismiss the opposition in the fourth innings. But the part-time spin of Travis Head, who earlier dismissed Jason Holder, did the trick and he bowled Joseph to break the tense stand.

Cummins did not bowl ahead of Thursday’s day-night second Test at Adelaide Oval, raising doubts over his availability. As he did late on the fourth day after opening the innings in the dressing room, Cummins was on the field but looked to be moving gently at one point while chasing a boundary.

West Indies started the fifth day at 192 for 3 needing 306 runs to win and their hopes revolved around Brathwaite who batted for two sessions on the fourth day.

But the task proved too difficult despite perhaps the best rearguard efforts. Kyle Mears was fortunate to have initially escaped an lbw noise from Lyon with replays showing that he had reached the silly point inside.

Lyon had the last laugh when Mears delivered a good length at first slip. It was Lyon’s 443rd Test wicket, moving him past fellow off-spinner R Ashwin to eight on the all-time Test wicket-taking list.

After an aggressive batting late in the fourth day, Brathwaite reverted to his trademark defensive style in an attempt to thwart the Australian attack. Having effectively collared Lyon the previous day, countering the bounce with a particularly brilliant sweep, Brathwaite finally countered with a belligerent boundary at long-on.

But Brathwaite’s brilliant innings ended soon after he was bowled by Lyon and the West Indies’ slim chances of avoiding defeat went with him as he walked off the ground to a standing ovation from the fans who took advantage of the entry of gold coins of the day.

After Brathwaite’s dismissal, Jason Holder tried to bowl but fell on the head as Steven Smith took a brilliant diving catch in the slips and was just moments away from sealing victory for Australia.

In the first Test match in Perth since December 2019, the surface was highly publicized due to 10mm of grass remaining on it. But despite the occasional sharp bounce, the pitch lacked the expected fireworks with the bowlers toiling for wickets.

Defying pre-match expectations after a brilliant batting performance in his two innings, West Indies’ poor bowling and poor fielding saw their attack take just six wickets in 189.4 overs.

They had no answers for Australia’s top order, especially Marence Libeschen, who came into the match to continue his personal run streak at Optus Stadium after his 143 and 50 against New Zealand three years ago. 308 runs were scored.

Smith also scored a double century in the first innings and Australia’s dominance was shown by all-rounder Cameron Greene not getting a chance to bat in his first home Test.

West Indies, troubled after a 25-year Test drought in Australia, will need a quick comeback. Adding to their woes, the West Indies have fitness concerns with seamer Kemar Roach ruled out on the fourth day after injuring his left thigh, while Mears with a right teres major muscle strain. Australia did not bowl in the second innings.

Top batsman Nkrumah Bonner was forced out of the match on the third day after being hit on the back of the helmet by a short green delivery.

After limited fanfare in the build-up, the crowds were modest and around 40,000 fans attended during the match. There was anticipation as to how local fans would react in the wake of former coach Justin Langer’s recent inflammatory interview, but there was no obvious sign of animosity towards the Australian team.

Despite being pushed for longer than expected, Australia have finally made a strong start to the Test summer after a difficult recent period on and off the field.

Tristan Lovelette is a journalist based in Perth.

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