Six wickets from Nathan Lyon have helped Australia complete a comfortable 164-run victory over the West Indies in the first Test in Perth, with attention now turning to captain Pat Cummins’ injury battle ahead of the Adelaide Test.
Cummins spent time off the field on Day 4 due to a quad injury, and while he would field on the final day, the star quick wouldn’t send down a single ball and looked noticeably ginger a number of times.
His fitness for the second Test of the series, which starts on Thursday, will now be of serious concern for the Australian camp, with Scott Boland looming as a near-certain replacement if Cummins is ruled out. Vice-captain Steve Smith would step in as captain in that scenario, just as he did in last year’s Adelaide Test when the fast bowler was exposed to COVID-19 on match eve.
A hobbled Cummins and some more resistance from the West Indies lower order, particularly Roston Chase (55) and Alzarri Joseph (43) applied even more pressure to remaining quicks Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood, both of whom sent down more than 40 overs for the Test. With a packed summer schedule ahead including a three-Test series against South Africa starting just five days after their series against the Windies is completed, consideration will have to go towards one or both of them joining Cummins on the sidelines in Adelaide.
It fell to Lyon to do the bulk of the work in ensuring victory for the Aussies midway through the second session on the final day, bowling with flight and guile to squeeze every ounce of life out of a Perth pitch that remained very batter-friendly even after five days of use.
His first ball of the day had Kyle Mayers caught at silly point by Marnus Labuschagne, only for the team to be so caught up in appealing the LBW shout that they failed to notice the bat on ball that Hot Spot quickly found on television coverage.
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The reprieve wouldn’t do Mayers much good, however, Lyon’s mastery over left-handed batters continuing by extracting an outside edge into the safe hands of Steve Smith at slip for only 10.
When the off-spinner followed that with the prized scalp of Kraigg Brathwaite for 110, a quicker bowl skidding past the Windies captain’s attempted cut shot and into off stump, it seemed only a matter of if and not when the visitors would fold.
Lyon wasn’t the only off-spinner having an impact; handed a rare bowl, Travis Head showed once again his viability as a part-timer with the wicket of Jason Holder, superbly caught by Smith at slip again. Shortly after, when Hazlewood became the first seamer to take a wicket for the day when a flashing Joshua Da Silva was pouched in the cordon by Usman Khawaja, the West Indies were 7/233 and on death’s doorstep.
An 82-run stand between Chase and Joseph, though, continued to delay the inevitable and frustrate the Aussies, Joseph in particular taking the fight to Lyon with three towering sixes to the leg side. With one session ticked off and the pair well set, the faintest of hope was rekindled.
As happens so often, it would be the part-timer who broke the stand; Head first seeing a tough chance dropped by wicketkeeper Alex Carey to reprieve Joseph, then befuddling the West Indian with a straight one that sneaked past the outside edge to disturb the furniture.
Chase would make his way to a nicely composed half-century to salvage yet more pride from the wreckage, but departed soon after, lofting Lyon to a diving Starc in the outfield to hand his opposite number a five-wicket haul.
One ball later, Lyon got through the defences of last man in Kemar Roach, and that was that.
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