Australia was firmly in the driver’s seat on the rain-affected first day of the third Test at the Sydney Cricket Ground by reducing the West Indies to 207-6 at stumps on Sunday.
The SCG pitch lived up to its reputation as being spin-friendly with Nathan Lyon and Steve O’Keefe sharing three wickets to justify the hosts’ decision to play two specialist spinners for a home test for the first time since 2006.
Opener Kraigg Brathwaite made a resilient 85 to provide almost lone resistance for the tourists on a day when 15 overs were lost to passing showers.
“It is a good batting pitch, it is taking some spin,” said Brathwaite. “The spinners bowled well, it is just about trusting your defense and backing your shots and you can score.”
“It is a tour where I am learning and I just want to keep going out there and building a foundation for my team.”
Carlos Brathwaite (35 not out) and Denesh Ramdin (23 not out) shared an unbeaten stand of 48 runs for the seventh wicket to lift the West Indies past 200 after winning the toss and electing to bat.
The innings fell away disappointingly after a promising opening session by the West Indies, who lost both the first two tests of the three-test series.
Shai Hope (9), a late selection for the injured Rajendra Chandrika who injured a groin in the warm-up, was the only wicket to fall in the opening session, caught behind off Josh Hazelwood (1-35).
Kraigg Brathwaite and Darren Bravo put on 91 for the second wicket, but Australia took the initiative in the 37 minutes between the start of the second session and a rain interruption.
James Pattinson (1-35) enticed Bravo into an uncontrolled hook which was caught by Usman Khawaja at deep square leg, and the visitors compounded the setback in near comical fashion when Marlon Samuels was run out for four in the final ball before the near two-hour rain delay.
Samuels pushed a Lyon delivery to point and set off for a run. Brathwaite, however, caused confusion as he slipped in the middle of the pitch, dropped his bat and scrambled back toward the non-strikers end, leaving Samuels stranded mid-pitch. Hazlewood made the short throw to Peter Nevill who completed the runout.
“As a cricket side you never want to see run outs in the long format, but it was a good piece of fielding, especially from Josh and luckily enough they were standing in the middle of the wicket shaking hands,” Lyon said.
Samuels has made only 35 runs, at an average of seven, in his five innings this tour.
Lyon was the pick of the bowlers, taking 2-68 off 32 overs to reach 100 test wickets in Australia.
He bowled Jermaine Blackwood (10) after the rain delay. Blackwood misjudged the degree of turn, leaving the ball and watching it hit the top of off stump.
The off-spinner then snared the key wicket of Kraigg Brathwaite, with the ball catching him on the glove and going to Australia skipper Steve Smith at slip.
“That was a pretty good wicket,” said Lyon. “Good fun to bowl on for spinners. It’s a big challenge for me, it’s spinning pretty big.”
O’Keefe (1-42), playing his first test since his debut against Pakistan in 2014, had Jason Holder (1) caught smartly by Joe Burns at short leg for his first test wicket in Australia.
“He’s a quality bowler,” said Lyon. “I’m a big fan of him and I love bowling in partnerships with (him). We were able to build some pressure there and hopefully we can get our reward tomorrow.
“(The wicket) was well deserved, because I know what he’s feeling like and it takes a lot of pressure off you.”