A terrific rearguard act form half-centurions Joshua Da Silva (79) and Kavem Hodge (71), and a brief cameo of 32 from Alzarri Joseph at the fag end, saw West Indies fight to post 266/8 on the opening day of the pink-ball Test at the Gabba on Thursday (January 25). After Mitchell Starc's triple strikes rattled the top-order early, the sixth-wicket pair dug in to stage a comeback that kept Australia at bay until the last hour of the day's play.
In better batting conditions, West Indies had no hesitation in doing the obvious but the decision spectacularly backfired on the visitors with the top-order continuing to fall to loose shots outside off stump after the debacle in Adelaide. However, a defiant 149-run partnership between Da Silva and Hodge not only managed to revive their first innings but also keep Starc & Co at bay for better part of the remaining play.
Starc was the destroyer-in-chief in the afternoon, striking thrice in the second half to reduce the Windies to 64/5 by Tea. To their credit though, openers Tagenarine Chanderpaul and Kraigg Braithwate did well to negotiate the testing new-ball spells from him and Josh Hazlewood for the first 30 minutes before a tentative push from the skipper got the hosts the first opening.
A 33-run stand ensued for the second wicket, where Kirk McKenzie settled in quickly and played with positive intent as he smoked a full ball from Nathan Lyon into the long-on stands. But one shot too many and the No. 3 was soon walking back with Pat Cummins breaking the enterprising partnership. McKenzie was guilty of attempting a flashy cut off a shortish delivery that he ended up edging to the right of Usman Khawaja at first slip.
Starc returned for a second spell on the other side of the drinks break and took only two balls to make an impact as Chanderpaul paid the price for fishing outside off after making a solid 21. The veteran pacer was quick to move to 350 Test wickets when Alick Athanaze nicked off trying to drive away from the body. Khawaja pouched another sharp, low catch at the stroke of Tea to mark the end of Justin Greaves' short stay in the middle and give Starc his 351st.
The second session was as engrossing as the West Indies' collapse of 4 for 22 just prior. Looking to wind up the lower-order quickly, Australia were frustrated to the core with Da Silva and Hodge staging a solid recovery through a wicket-less session - the first across the two Tests so far that belonged wholly to the visitors.
Walking out in a situation all too familiar, Da Silva responded well and batted positively from ball one. For a brief moment, he even scored at more than run-a-ball, notching up two lovely boundaries off Cummins. Hodge took cue and pulled a short one from Starc into the stands in the very next over as the visitors raced to 100 quickly after Tea.
With the pink ball softening and the track easing out progressively, Hodge and Da Silva both showed great resolve and judgement. Australia's frustration was evident from the way Cummins shuffled his bowling options in search of that desperate breakthrough. Even Marnus Labuschagne was summoned for the final over before Dinner, but to no avail.
Their wait for the wicket continued for over an hour into the final session under lights, while the two batters reached their respective half-centuries. Hodge got to his maiden one first, albeit through a lucky edge that didn't quite carry to gully. Da Silva got there in the following over, also bringing up the century of the sixth-wicket partnership alongside. Incidentally, Hodge's next scoring shot was also an outside edge that, luckily for West Indies, raced to he fence via a vacant second slip.
Starc continued to induce edges off Hodge, who had a couple of more lucky escapes. A tough chance was put down by Cameroon Green when he was on 59, and right after the drinks break Hodge nearly dragged an inside on to the stumps, on 61. With the partnership approaching the 150 milestone, Australia's desperation grew and Cummins next called upon Travis Head to roll his arm over.The part-timer leaked 10 straightaway with Da Silva fetching a couple of boundaries more for his tally.
Lyon eventually delivered the breakthrough Australia hunted, trapping Da Silva LBW on 79. The batter did waste one of his team's reviews hoping, perhaps, the height would save him. Hodge too fell in quick succession, Starc finally managing to get his man on 71 for his fourth wicket of the day. But just as the home team harboured the hopes of wrapping up the tail cheaply, Alzarri Joseph launched a flurry of boundaries against Cummins and Starc to put Windies past the 250 mark. His thoroughly entertaining cameo of 32 came to an end in the final over of the day's play with Hazlewood inducing an edge to second slip for his second wicket of the day.
Brief scores: West Indies 266/8 (Joshua Da Silva 79, Kavem Hodge 71; Mitchell Starc 4-68, Josh Hazlewood 2-32) vs Australia