PORT OF SPAIN: Shane Watson hit a patient half-century as Australia reached 208 for five on the first day of the second Test against West Indies on a slow Queen’s Park Oval pitch.
Mike Hussey, on 26, and Matthew Wade, with 11, were unbeaten at the close, putting on a useful 30-run partnership after both men had survived dropped catches.
Watson was Australia’s top scorer, making a solid 56 in 219 minutes.
“It was hard to get the pace of the ball because it was very slow. Also the ball was very soft,” said Watson.
“The fields that (West Indies skipper) Darren Sammy set meant it was hard to rotate the strike at times. I was trying to do everything I could to keep the scoreboard moving, but on a wicket like this it does make it difficult.”
The day was also a mini-triumph for Windies’ off-spinner Shane Shillingford who came in for Devendra Bishoo to play his first Test for 18 months after having to undergo remedial work on his action.
He bowled 32 overs, taking two for 56, including opener David Warner in his first over.
“It obviously felt pretty good coming back to Test cricket and getting a wicket in my first over,” he said.
Australia, who won the first Test in Barbados by three wickets, decided to play two spinners for the first time in nearly four years, with Michael Beer coming in to partner Nathan Lyon.
Warner (29) and Ed Cowan (28) put on 53 for the first wicket to provide the foundation for Australia, while seamer Kemar Roach was the pick of the West Indies seam attack.
He removed Cowan and later Ricky Ponting (seven) before the tea interval.
Shillingford bowled the first over of spin in the match in the 15th over and had immediate success.
Warner did not quite get to the pitch of his fifth ball but continued through with a drive and the ball came off the outside edge straight to Sammy at slip.
Roach, who had opened the bowling from the Media Centre End, was brought back by Sammy at the Brian Lara Pavilion End for a couple of overs before lunch.
The third ball of his new spell hit Cowan low on the front pad and despite a review, the opener was on his way back to the pavilion as Australia went to lunch on 74 for two.
In the sixth over after the break, Roach took his second wicket.
Ponting was man of the match in his last appearance in a Test at Queen’s Park Oval, having scored a double-century in the first innings.
It was not to be this time around. He had scored just seven by the time he was squared up by a delivery outside off-stump that took the edge and flew to wicket-keeper Carlton Baugh at chest height.
Somehow the keeper spilt it but he had got enough glove on the ball that Sammy had time to step across from first slip to grab the rebound.
With the ball not coming off the pitch and with a lush outfield, scoring was always going to be slow.
Skipper Michael Clarke appeared to come to the decision at tea that it would help his side if the scoring rate was increased. He hit the first two balls after the interval to the boundary and hit 17 runs in the first two overs.
He had made 41 when he looked as though he’d be on his way back to the pavilion.
He’d been given out lbw to a Shillingford delivery that came back in and hit him on the back pad. He asked for a review and it proved to be a good move as the ball had hit him just outside the line of the off stump.
Narsingh Deonarine returned to the attack and Clarke’s eyes seemed to light up as a long hop came down. He spun and hit it sweetly to deep square leg but somehow found the only man on the boundary.
He stood in disbelief at what he’d done but was gone for 45 having added 84 runs with Watson.
Watson, who had come to the wicket at the fall of Warner, struggled to score after tea and was using his feet to the spinners.
He came down the wicket to a Shillingford off-break and played defensively. The ball came off the inside edge and went sharply to Adrian Barath who took a good reflex catch.
Watson had only added 15 runs in the 16 overs after tea, but his innings could prove to be extremely valuable over the next four days. AFP