ROSEAU: Ricky Ponting, in almost certainly his final innings in the Caribbean, made a crucial half-century as Australia built an imposing lead of 310 runs at the close of the third day of the final test against West Indies on Wednesday.
The former Australia captain, who will be in his forties the next time his team tour the region, put on 87 for the third wicket with left-hander Ed Cowan to ease any concerns after a shaky start to the innings.
In difficult conditions to make runs, West Indies will need to produce a comeback similar to their remarkable chase down of 418 against the Australians in Antigua nine years ago to level the three-test series.
Cowan, for one, believes that is an unlikely outcome.
“I think we’re in control, definitely. I think 300 already is a big score. If we can get to lunch unscathed and maybe have 350, 360 lead, all of a sudden I think that’s a winning total,” he told reporters.
“We’re confident we’ve got heaps of runs on the board already.”
Ponting and Cowan have not enjoyed a fruitful tour but with the 1-0 series lead on the line, they produced the kind of gutsy and intelligent performances that have been too often missing from their opponents’ efforts with the bat.
Australia were 200 for six at stumps, a respectable score on a surface which continued to offer sharp turn and bounce to West Indies spinners Shane Shillingford and Narsingh Deonarine who picked up two wickets apiece.
The day had begun somewhat frustratingly for the tourists as the West Indian tail produced some badly needed lower order fight, mustering 98 runs from the last two partnerships.
The hosts were finally bowled out for 218, 30 minutes before lunch, and then removed Australia opener Dave Warner cheaply when he edged Kemar Roach to Shivnarine Chanderpaul in the slips.
West Indies’ hopes of making inroads into the Australian batting line-up, in a test they must win to tie the series, were further boosted when Shane Watson was removed in the third over after the resumption.
The Queenslander was caught at leg slip by West Indies skipper Darren Sammy on five, trying to steer Shillingford to the on-side as Australia slumped to 25 for two.
But Ponting and left-hander Cowan took a firm grip on the match, taking the score to 112 before the latter was removed for 55 by a superb catch from Sammy, who held on to a hard and high catch at slip off Deonarine.
Ponting’s experience ensured another useful stand, as he and captain Michael Clarke added a further 56 before paceman Kemar Roach, who has troubled Ponting so often removed him with a short, rising delivery that was top-edged to Chanderpaul for 57.
It was an unfortunate dismissal for Ponting who had tried to get out of the way of the delivery but left his bat poking up like a periscope.
With the lead rising, West Indies needed to finish the final session with some impact and they did so with Clarke (25) deflecting Shillingford to Darren Bravo and Matthew Wade, a century-maker in the first innings, being hit on the toe, plumb in front, from Deonarine.
The wickets still left Australia in a powerful position in the game, especially given West Indies fragile batting display in the first innings.
Earlier, Chandepaul’s typically patient 68 from 164 balls was the anchor in a West Indies batting rally.
The Guyanese left-hander was well supported by Ravi Rampaul who moved to 31 before an ill-judged attempt to hit against Nathan Lyon’s off-spin resulted in a thick outside edge that was easily taken by Warner.
Last man Roach played his junior partner role well, adding 32 with Chanderpaul before the latter was trapped lbw by Mitchell Starc. REUTERS