Australia’s fast bowlers eventually made headway against a stubborn West Indies batting effort on the third day of the first Test at Perth Stadium, prising out the visitors for 283 across 98.2 overs on a mild and sunny day. After choosing to bat again, Australia’s first-innings lead of 315 was extended to 344 in 11 overs before stumps for the loss of Usman Khawaja.
For the longest time, it was hard to know what to make of the Perth drop-in surface. The first such pitch for the India Test of 2018 enabled an electric contest with its pace. The following year against New Zealand it was comparatively anodyne. After the first two and a half days of this current Test had yielded five wickets from both teams combined, scorecard watchers would have assumed this pitch was a highway. In fact it was still offering good bounce, it had a persistently green thatch of grass, and
there were deliveries that had batters in trouble.
Bit by bit, the Australians were able to pinpoint the landing zone that proved most difficult to play. Josh Hazlewood began the process, removing Tagenarine Chanderpaul in the first over of the day. The debutant opener had safely edged a boundary, turning his overnight 47 into his first half-century, and taking West Indies to 78 for none. Hazlewood followed up with the perfect length to the left-hander, on an off-stump line that he had to play, moving away to draw an edge to first slip.
But for each Australian success, West Indies responded with resistance. Nkrumah Bonner got through tough overs with Kraigg Brathwaite, then was hit in the helmet by Cameron Green and had to retire hurt soon afterwards at the drinks break. Jermaine Blackwood took over circumspectly to accompany his captain beyond lunch. It was after the break that Pat Cummins was next to find the spot, drawing Brathwaite forward, angling the ball in, then cutting it away to beat the outside edge and hit the top of off stump, all against a player on 64 who had faced 166 balls. With a simulacrum of his famous Joe Root dismissal, Cummins had his 200th Test wicket in his 44th Test, a distinction shared with Richard Hadlee, Joel Garner, Kagiso Rabada, Ravindra Jadeja and Alec Bedser.
Mitchell Starc soon followed with his own version of that delivery, beating the left-handed Kyle Mayers on the inside edge for one. Both bowlers maintained their quality, and their short bowling began to grow venomous. But now it was Jason Holder helping Blackwood, putting on 53 together including a mighty six off Nathan Lyon before the spinner had Holder caught at leg slip for 27.
Shamarh Brooks was allowed to bat as the concussion substitute for Bonner, taking the team past tea with Blackwood, but Starc found swing with the second new ball, using it to blast off Blackwood’s front pad – out lbw – for a stubborn 36 from 108 balls, then to smash up Joshua da Silva’s stumps for a third-ball duck. Brooks poked at Green to edge behind for 33, the local player’s success drawing the most noise of the day from Western Australian supporters, and the visitors’ resistance ended at 266 for seven. Cummins and Lyon finished up the rest, the captain topping the bowling with three for 34, Starc with three for 51.
The massive lead would not tempt Australia to enforce the follow-on, not with the continued quality of the pitch for batting and the lengthy shift they had experienced in the field. David Warner threw the bat immediately, Khawaja fenced at Kemar Roach to nick behind for six, and the Australians finished the day on 29 for one. The fourth day will be all about how long they want to continue before attempting to dislodge West Indies for a second time, with Marnus Labuschagne ready to add to his first-innings double century.