Sulieman Benn has shown considerable promise for some time (even to the extent of me noticing), so it’s gratifying to see him stepping up when his team need him, taking 5 for 155 (including the wickets of Watson and Katich, who started the day having built a 174-run partnership) as the West Indies dismissed Australia twelve runs short of their own first innings total.
The West Indies could really do with a top-class spin bowler at the moment, as their bowling attack has struggled against the Aussie machine, and if Benn can maintain the same standard in the second innings at Adelaide, where the pitch is starting to deteriorate, then who knows what could happen?
There, I didn’t mention his height once. I didn’t say that he’s taken giant strides forward, or that he’s reached new heights, or even that he was head and shoulders above the rest of the attack.
Australia go into their first Test series since the Ashes with a strong desire to bounce back, and one could hardly dispute that the West Indies are in need of a boost following their recent troubles, so both sides should be sufficiently motivated for the three Test series which starts on Thursday.
For Australia, the side is fairly settled, with Doug Bollinger confirmed as the 12th man for the First Test. Mitchell Johnson will be hoping for a return to form following his well-publicised struggles over the English summer, whilst Stuart Clark now seems to have been cut adrift indefinitely. As for the batting line-up, Shane Watson is well established as Katich’s opening partner, and the rest of the top and middle order is similarly predictable. Anything other than a series win for the hosts is unthinkable for captain Ponting, who will desperately be trying to shake off the disappointment (and the stigma) of a second Ashes defeat under his stewardship.
The tourists will be boosted by the return of Chris Gayle from Jamaica in time for the First Test. Much, as ever, rests on the captain’s shoulders, as well as those of Chanderpaul and Dwayne Bravo, with the latter hoping to translate his good form for Trinidad & Tobago across to the Test format. Meanwhile, 19-year-old Adrian Barath looks set to open the batting alongside Gayle in a partnership that will have to gel quickly in the face of the formidable Aussie pace attack, not to mention the pace-friendly conditions at the Gabba. The Windies face an uphil struggle, to say the least.