Australia continued their climb to the top with a hard-fought 2-0 victory against the West Indies.
The series was already written off as one-sided in Australia’s favour as the West Indies were not making much of an impact at the top level. However, a young West Indian side, shepherded by the ever-reliable Shivnaraine Chanderpaul, gave Australia a run for their money.
The wickets in the Caribbean this time round were lively and aided both pace and spin. This was very much a bowler-oriented contest. Such was the dominance of the bowlers that both teams managed just one century each in the three Tests.
The batsmen rarely felt in at any given time and had to battle for every run. The series came alive thanks to positive captaincy from both Michael Clarke and Darren Sammy,
The biggest let down for the Windies was a fragile top-order which rarely fired. This put a lot a pressure on Chanderpaul who came good in every Test and was the Man of the Series without doubt. If Chanderpaul’s contribution is taken out, then the West Indies would have barely managed 150. But the veteran left-hander put a price on his wicket and plodded on to big scores and passed the 10,000 mark in Tests.
Chanderpaul received some support from the improving Darren Bravo and the West Indies lower order. Sammy is nothing more than a useful cricketer whose place in the team is constantly questioned. However, Sammy silenced his critics at least temporarily with some good batting at number eight. He also did a fine holding job as a bowler, maintaining admirable line and length and choking the batsmen.
The West Indian bowling played a major role in the team fighting hard right through.
Kemar Roach finally cemented his place as the leader of the pack with 19 wickets in the series. After an erratic start, he found rhythm and became menacing as the series went on. He was well-supported by the luckless Fidel Edwards. The contribution of Shane Shillingford was also important. He took 14 wickets with his off-spin in just two Tests.
The one batsman who got the century for Australia was the wicketkeeper Matthew Wade. That was a match-winning effort as he guided a tottering Australia to 328 with the help of the tail. He always proved stubborn in his other innings and his wicketkeeping was efficient at all times.
If the Australian selectors are smart, they should retain Wade as the keeper and let Brad Haddin enjoy an extended holiday.
Though none of the Australian batsmen batted consistently, they made vital contributions at the right time. The biggest surprise was that the lower order batted consistently and always tided things over for the team.
Ryan Harris scored a maiden fifty while Ben Hilfenhaus, Nathan Lyon, James Pattinson and Mitchell Starc made useful scores.
The Australian bowling was superb. Harris had a match-winning performance in the first Test while Hilfenhaus took early wickets in every Test. Lyon was more than useful and though he did not take many wickets, he answered his captain in tight situations.
Clarke is now earning a big reputation as a captain. He is positive in everything he does and is responsible for Australia winning the series. His declaration in the second Test was bold and rain played spoil sport with the Wet Indies going for the 215 target in 61 overs. He also picked up a match-winning five-for in the third Test.
Australia take a break for six months after their hectic summer while the West Indies play England away in a fortnight. The West Indies will need to maintain their fighting spirit more than ever. England in England is always a different cup of tea.