An interesting narrative emerged from the second test of this series, where Clarke's reckless declaration was widely praised, even though the probability of bowling out the West Indies for a sub-215 score was low, and the chance of losing high. When even Darren Sammy stars to chase the win, you've made it to easy. Nevertheless, the declaration did manage to deflect criticism away from another ordinary batting effort. Roachs 10-wicket haul was worthy of praise, as was Lyon's 5-wicket first innings, but only Chanderpaul and Hussey produced scores of note, and although Australia gathered both a first innings lead and the draw, a less rain-strewn match might have been more problematic.
The third test provided a template for that eventuality, with the exception that Wade's maiden ton and a superior second innings effort left just enough room for Clarke and Lyon to spin the visitors to victory. That Clarke took wickets indicates that the pitch was not easy to bat on, so scores in the 200-300 range weren't as horrific as they would be elsewhere. Ultimately the series was decided by the Australian's ability to grind out 30s whereas, except for Bravo, the West Indies batsmen completely failed to support the dominant Chanderpaul.
The bowling indicates a much more even series, with Roach and Shillingford the highest wicket-takers, although Australia's numbers are distorted by injuries and rotation. And yet, despite the relatively close contests and the numerous chances afforded to the West Indies to take a test, or even the series. They never looked like doing so. Recent comments from their camp reflect a lack of knowledge when it comes to the end-game, and they generally drifted from session to session, awaiting that one really bad period that allowed Australia to ut them away.
The Australians, by contrast, do know how to win, and waited out their fallow periods knowing their chance would come. They'll be pleased with the result, the performance of both teams almost perfectly matched expectations.
England in May has been a very tough experience for recent West Indies teams, so they ought to, and do, look at this as a comparative success.
Which is of course bullshit, because they lost, when they could have pushed England right to the wire, with some better (smarter) play, and some well timed aggression. The players who performed against Australia continued to do so, with both Roach and Chanderpaul playing well, Bravo indicating he might, Sammy contributing in his own way. Shillingford was missing, and missed. Samuels actually played well. The rest are very talented passengers.
Barath in particular is an enormous source of frustration, with the talent to score easily and the tendency to get out even more easily. Add in some sloppy and lazy running, some uninspired fielding and defeatist captaincy and the West Indies are playing time until England put them away. Which they will, because their bowling is exemplary, and their batting solid and deep.
What the West Indies really need to do is go play Ireland, a side that will push them, not give up, and force them to play to win. Then come back. Anything other than a marginal ratings improvement and a three-nil loss will be a big surprise.
Shaded teams have played fewer than 2 games per season. Non-test team ratings are not comparable to test ratings as they don't play each other.
Monday Melbourne: CCLVIII, May 2012