The third Test between the West Indies and Australia begins on December 16th at Perth. As far as the Frank Worrell Trophy is concerned, the series is no longer a competition. Australia will retain the trophy regardless of the outcome of the third (and final) Test match. This series , however, is not solely dependent on a Trophy to ensure competiveness.
Australia has been having, by their standards, a very poor year. The Ashes loss is sure to still be in the minds of the players and they will be desperate to get a convincing win, if only to get the media off their backs.
The West Indies need a boost of confidence which would be sure to arrive with a win in the final test. With this being the first series since the player strike, the fans need a reason to have confidence in their side as much as the players need to finish on a high. After dominating the second Test, the momentum is with the West Indian team but as anyone who has watched them recently knows, consistent use of such momentum is no guarantee.
The pitch at the WACA in Perth is usually fast and bouncy. This is ideal for the West Indies to take twenty wickets since their strike bowlers on this tour, Kemar Roach and Suliemann Benn, would relish the opportunity to bowl on such a pitch.
Roach and Benn together took nine wickets during the Australian 1st inning in the second test. Roach has been regularly bowling at speeds in excess of 144km/hr throughout the tour and while he is not very tall for a fast bowler he is capable of extracting bounce and using it to great effect, which was shown by the number of Australian batsmen who were hit by his rising deliveries. Benn on the other hand is extremely tall and can extract sharp bounce on even the best batting pitches. Should the pitch in Perth play as it usually does he will be very difficult to play, especially as he continues to bowl his variations in flight and speed as he did during the first inning of the 2nd Test and does not try to continually bowl flat and fast he did in the second innings.
Ravi Rampaul contributed with an unexpected (and very entertaining) 40 batting as last man in the first innings but only bowled 23 overs in the entire match and took one wicket. He should get more encouragement from the Perth pitch and the West Indies will need him to replicate the sort of performances he has shown domestically and in the limited-overs version of the game.
It seems likely that the West Indies will play an unchanged squad in the Third Test which means that Travis Dowlin and Gavin Tonge will again miss out. Dowlin may feel unlucky to not be selected after scoring runs in the 1st Test but it seems unlikely Ramnaresh Sarwan would be dropped, especially given the form he is in. While Darren Sammy was not especially proficient with the ball, his attacking batting helped to set up a good first innings total in the Second Test and he would be seen as a player who would bowl many overs. Tonge would be an option if the West Indies would prefer to strengthen the bowling attack but given that he is yet to play Test cricket it would be somewhat of a high pressure situation to include him.
Australia have retained an unchanged squad and remain hopeful that Peter Siddle will overcome the hamstring problem which affected him during the second Test in Adelaide. If he does not pass a fitness test then Clint McKay will be given his debut.
In the previous test the West Indian batting line-up performed extremely well to post 451 after being 273/6 at one point. While they did post 317 in the second innings this was all down the tremendous knock of 165* by Captain Chris Gayle. The fact that no one else on the team made more than 27 means that the batting order is still susceptible to collapse but the team must hope that the senior players continue to take responsibility for the direction of the innings.
The Australian fast bowlers, in particular Mitchell Johnson and Doug Bollinger, will also be looking forward to bowling on the WACA pitch. The West Indies will therefore be relying heavily on their openers to give them a good start and to see off the new ball. Adrian Barath was unluckily run out in the second innings and fans would be hopeful he continues to perform after his amazing debut hundred in the first test. Chris Gayle played what was certainly the most mature innings of his Test career in Adelaide and if he continues to bat with the same determination several more hundreds are sure to follow.
The West Indian middle order also performed well in the previous match and will be looking to continue in the same vein. Sarwan was guilty of making a start and then getting out in that match but he is in good form having already scored four hundreds this year and two fifties in the warm up match. Shivnarine Chanderpaul was out for 62 in the first innings in controversial fashion via the intervention of the third umpire after the decision had been referred. Whether there was enough evidence to put him out remains a point which the detractors of the referral system are keen to focus on. Chanderpaul , however, is one of the most determined batsmen in the game and it is unlikely anything will distract him from his batting as he seeks to once again go climb to the top of the Test rankings.
Brendan Nash continues to support the middle order with his vital contributions and in the last match his influence on the lower order greatly contributed to the score made by the West Indies. He should have no trouble to remain motivated as he is playing against an Australian side whose members he knows well and should be eager to continue to prove himself against them.
During the last Test match Dwayne Bravo was exceptional. His hundred in the first innings resurrected the innings when the Australians were beginning to get the upper hand. It was well paced and aggressive and came exactly at the right time. Perhaps he could be slightly faulted for having failed to carry on after getting his hundred but even that seems harsh. His three wickets in the second innings helped to bring the West Indies closer to obtaining result and as always he continues to pick up crucial wickets at opportune moments.
Gayle’s captaincy throughout the match was of a very high standard. While it can be said he relied heavily on Benn and Roach, the fact that they continued to perform shows that his confidence was justified. His bowling changes were well timed and worked, such as when he brought on Rampaul in the second innings which resulted in Ponting’s dismissal. The only fault could be deciding to bat on the fifth day instead of bowling but considering that the West Indies are not a confident team accustomed to being in strong positions, it is expected that he would want to eliminate all chances of a loss.
The third Test in Perth should bring a new set of challenges for the West Indies and a win is by no means certain . But if they play up to their potential and carry forward the momentum of their good performance in the last match , then it is Australia who will most likely be on the back foot.