Brathwaite’s heroics, packed Test schedule give Aussies a fast-bowling headache

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You’ve got to take your hat off to the West Indies.

Since being batted out of the game by the Australians, they’ve wanted to push the game into Day 5 – and now, after a cracker of an innings from Kraigg Brathwaite, they have.

While the captain’s there, they are still a sniff of drawing this Test match. You still feel with them that if you can get through the top four, it’s a middle order of stroke-players that don’t average a lot in Test cricket; they lost seven wickets quickly ini the first innings once they were three down.

Once the Aussies declared, I felt if the quicks got early inroads, this was all over. But Brathwaite and Tagenarine Chanderpaul backed up their first innings partnership with another great stand, and the skipper went on with it.

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The thing about Brathwaite is he just gives himself so much time. He barely looks flustered, he doesn’t like coming hard at the ball, and he’s got a really good defence.

I particularly liked the way he took on Nathan Lyon; every now and then he plays a slog-sweep or bunt to mid-wicket for a boundary, just to ease the pressure.

He’s had problems in his career with scoring quickly, but the strike-rate was good for this hundred, and it was reasonably free-flowing; a real captain’s knock after being excellent in the first innings too.

You’d still have to be doubtful that they can bat out the draw, but Brathwaite is definitely capable of a marathon innings. Earlier this year against England in Bridgetown, he batted for 710 minutes and faced 489 balls to score a match-saving 160. Can he do it again?

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The real tough thing for the Windies is find someone who can hang around with Brathwaite. If the captain is dismissed early, I think the Australians will wrap it up pretty quickly, especially with the second new ball available about 90 minutes into the day.

I’m backing the Aussies to finish the job on Sunday, and hopefully they do it pretty quickly, because I want the fast bowlers to rest up as much as possible for the second Test in Adelaide.

There are concerns for both teams on the bowling front, with Pat Cummins not bowling on Day 4 with a thigh problem and Kemar Roach pulling up sore earlier on. The good news is that we’re hearing Cummins will be ready to bowl on the final day, so it must be just a really minor issue.

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The captain can’t bowl for the first 10 minutes of the day, so I’d expect the Aussies to go with Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood for the opening spell and hope they make early inroads.

Years ago, there’d be Shield cricket for the Australian team, there’d be tour games for overseas teams, so by the time they got to the first Test, they were match-hardened in four or five-day cricket. The calendar just doesn’t allow that now.

To have a fast-bowling captain that could be injured would be massive for both the Aussies and the West Indies. We do have Scott Boland to play straightaway as a replacement, but in a tight schedule of five Tests in six weeks, the health of particularly the fast bowlers is going to be of much importance.

For the Australians, a key focus on Day 5 will be how everyone pulls up, especially the quicks. Depending on how many overs they bowl tomorrow – Starc and Hazlewood might get up to 45 overs for the match, and not coming off a huge build-up either with Shield cricket with the T20 World Cup and ODIs.

The selectors may look at rotating someone like a Boland in, who’s ready to go; but that’ll depend on Cummins pulling through tomorrow, bowling overs and pulling through okay.

With five Test matches in six weeks, I think we’ll see a little bit of rotation in the quick stocks. It’s probably the one skill we have good depth in, but it adds an extra dimension to play on Sunday. If the West Indies happen to draw or if they happen to take the game deep, that’s going to really upset the Australians’ preparation going into the next Test match, and ahead of a pretty heavy workload in the next six weeks.

Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins of Australia chat.

Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins of Australia chat. (Photo by Quinn Rooney – CA/Cricket Australia via Getty Images)

The same goes for the Windies with Roach; the way he pulled up after that delivery seemed really painful, and you’d have to say he’s really doubtful to be right for Adelaide.

Obviously they’re not bowling on Sunday, so at least they get a bit of a break. But if Roach does miss, I certainly think Alzarri Joseph can step up to lead the attack.

He troubled the Australians today, and if that’s his standard, on a day-night pitch in Adelaide with more grass on it and a pink ball that we know does move, I’d be certainly making sure that he opens the bowling as the spearhead. His first spell in particular was outstanding, and he was unlucky to get the wicket of Marnus Labuschagne on a no-ball. He really shook Warner and Marnus up a bit with his short-ball battery.

I’m not sure who they’ll bring in for Roach, but on what we saw here, they’re certainly going to enjoy bowling more in Adelaide than they are in Perth.

This is probably the slowest of the three Tests we’ve had at Optus Stadium with the pitch, so for all the talk of a green monster leading in, the grass just hasn’t burned away.

We haven’t had really hot weather here, only on Day One, so the pitch hasn’t been able to bake. I get the feeling it’s just a bit slower than the other two Tests here. The quicks feel like they’re doing the batsmen off the wicket, but they’ve got enough time to jam down on it; whereas in other Tests here they were getting bowled through the gate or nicking behind. There’s a few different factors that have forced this into Day 5.

It was also obviously another milestone day for Labuschagne joining an exclusive club with a 200 and a century this Test. Numbers three and four are so important in Tests, and if Steve Smith and Marnus have massive summers, that’s going to set up a huge advantage for the Australians.

Certainly that no-ball dismissal was another opportunity for people to say ‘Geez, he’s lucky!’ But I don’t put too much currency on lucky cricketers; generally, if you’re positive and you play a certain way, you get the rub of the green.

What he does, to be fair to him – and I said this on commentary – is cash in on his luck. There’s no point having perceived luck if you’re not making the most of it, and he certainly seems to do that. When he gets the opportunity, he goes on and he scores big and makes the most of it.

His running between the wickets with Warner was sensational, too; all those one-percenters make a pretty good package with Marnus.

The same goes for his bowling – he was a little bit disappointed after play not to have bowled more, as he reckons he’s bowling pretty well in the nets. He was particularly happy with his bouncer!

I think when he bowls, generally it’ll be his leg-spinners that provide the options, but good on him for pulling out his mediums with Cummins off injured. He bowls medium pace a bit in country cricket and for Queensland.

We love three-dimensional players, and a lot of strong teams have those players that they can throw the ball to when they need the breakthrough. Marnus is certainly one of those, but I’d prefer him to bowl leg-spin over medium pace.

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