Cricket has arrived!
The summer tradition that captures the imagination of most sports fans gets underway today, as a young Australian team takes on a West Indies side foiled in controversy and criticism.
Unfortunately, the traditional Gabba first Test has not received a significant amount of media coverage and hype, probably due to the pervading belief that the West Indies won’t be able to compete with the Australians. On paper the Australians should win comfortably, however if the West indies bring their ‘a-game’ and snare a bit of luck, who knows what could happen?
The Aussies will be desperate to win. There is nothing more humiliating for any Australian sporting side than to lose to England. After losing the Ashes only three months ago to the old enemy, they will be very eager to make amends.
In reality, their side should annihilate the West Indies. Captain Ricky Ponting is still the best batsmen in the world and could very well take this series by the scruff of the neck.
All-rounder Shane Watson is showing plenty of form and will have a chance to prove himself as an opener alongside veteran Simon Katich. With young gun Phil Hughes waiting in the wings for another opportunity and the first Test taking place at his home ground, Watson will not be short of motivation to perform.
Brett Lee is still out, so Mitchell Johnson will spearhead the bowling attack on a wicket that will suit fast bowlers in the first couple of days. Off-spinner Nathan Haurtiz will play to add variety to the attack.
Here is how the Australian squad is most likely to appear:
1. Shane Watson
2. Simon Katich
3. Ricky Ponting (Captain)
4. Michael Hussey
5. Michael Clarke
6. Marcus North
7. Brad Haddin (Wicket-keeper)
8. Mitchell Johnson
9. Nathan Hauritz
10. Peter Siddle
11. Ben Hilfenhaus
(12th man- Doug Bollinger)
There is serious concern about the West Indies side, particularly in their bowling stocks. Jerome Taylor, a bowler who has form against the Australians, will spearhead a relatively inexperienced bowling attack, with apprentices Ravi Rampual and Kerryn Roach being thrown into the deep end.
Captain Chris Gayle will fly into Australia just in time for the beginning of the Test after being at the bedside of his ill mother. Gayle is vital to the side and, even though he hasn’t trained hard in the last week, will still bring his hard-hitting style of batting.
The middle order of Ramnaresh Sarwan, Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Dwayne Bravo is solid and will compete against a relatively inexperienced Australian bowling attack.
Finally, let’s not forget Brendan Nash, the left-handed batsmen who moved to the West Indies after failing to get a game for Queensland. Nash’s parents were born in Jamaica, making him eligible for the calypso side. Since breaking into the side he has averaged over 38 runs an innings, including a maiden Test century against England in March this year.
Here is how the West Indies are likely to line up:
1. Chris Gayle (Captain)
2. Adrian Barath
3. Ramnaresh Sarwan
4. Shivnarine Chanderpaul
5. Dwayne Bravo
6. Brendan Nash
7. Denesh Ramdin
8. Jerome Taylor
9. Sulieman Benn
10. Ravi Rampaul
11. Kerryn Roach
(12th man- Narsingh Deonarine)
Kevin Mitchell Jnr, the chief curator at the Gabba, always prepares a ripper of a pitch for the first Test. It is probably the best Test match wicket in the world, as it offers something for every aspect of the game.
Normally, the first day is the best time to bowl due to an even covering of grass, which allows for natural swing with the new ball. However, by late day two and day three, the pitch normally flattens out, allowing the ball to come onto the bat a lot easier. By day four or five, the pitch begins to break up a touch, creating dust and allowing the ball to spin more, which is why the Australians will play Hauritz.
As Vic Richardson, the Chappell brothers’ legendary grandfather, once said; ‘if you win the toss, nine times out of ten you bat first. On the tenth time, you think about sending the opposition in, then bat first’.
However, contrary to advice, it is almost worth winning the toss and bowling first. If bowlers can get early breakthroughs on day one and bowl the team out early, it will allow their batsmen to make full use of the ideal batting conditions on day two and three.
Who will win and why:
Surely the Australians can’t lose. They will be so determined to get revenge after losing the Ashes. They are a more balanced side that bats deep and fields brilliantly.
However, if the West Indies take their opportunities, the Aussies could be vulnerable. If the West Indies can stretch the Test to a fifth day, the Australians could fatigue due to their recent heavy schedule of one-day cricket. If the West Indies are able to bowl the Australians out for under 300 runs in their first innings, we could have a game on our hands.
However, all the Aussies have to do is execute the basics, be patient while batting and be disciplined in the field. If Australia can do those, they should win comfortably.
Australia by an innings and 100+ runs.