Australia’s batting domination continued on day two of the series opener against the West Indies, with Marnus Labuschagne and Steve Smith both bringing up double centuries at Perth Stadium on Thursday.
Only two wickets fell in the West Australian capital on day two, with the hosts declaring their first innings to a close at 4/598.
The Australian onslaught ended in heartbreaking scenes with Travis Head chopping on for 99 moments after the tea break.
West Indies captain Kraigg Brathwaite and debutant Tagenarine Chanderpaul weathered the storm in the evening session, guiding the visitors to 0/74 at stumps, still trailing Australia by 524 runs.
DAY TWO: Son of legend thwarts Aussies in brutal ‘baptism’ after Smith, Marnus double heroics
Every boundary from Smith’s double ton! | 03:56
‘NOT TEST MATCH QUALITY’: WINDIES TORN TO SHREDS
Where did it all go wrong for the West Indies?
The side’s pace attack was touted as their biggest weapon ahead of the Frank Worrell Trophy, but Australia’s top order made them look woefully mediocre at Perth Stadium.
After the dismissal of David Warner on day one, the West Indies’ seam bowlers collectively claimed 1-369 from 105.1 overs.
It was undeniably a batter-friendly wicket, particularly on day two, but there was enough on offer for the bowlers to cause some damage.
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There wasn’t enough venom from their quicks — searing bouncers were few and far between, while too often they strayed in line and length when disciplined bowling was required.
The standard of fielding also dropped in quality as fatigue started to take its toll.
Frankly, it was far too easy for the Australians, particularly when Travis Head and Steve Smith switched to white-ball mode in the afternoon session of day two.
“You need things to go right early on day two and it didn’t quite happen for them,” former Australian wicketkeeper Adam Gilchrist told foxsports.com.au.
“The longer you’re out there, the more fatigued you get, the bowling drops off, the fielding and the body language, the energy disappears and you almost end up just going through the motions and just waiting for the inevitable to turn up – it’s a tough psychological challenge.
“They probably just dropped off a bit today.”
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As Australia approached a 600-run lead after the tea break, former Test batter Mark Waugh lamented on Fox Cricket: “I don’t think there’s any sort of reason behind what they’re doing at the moment. They’re just hoping for a mistake somewhere.
“Just change it up. At the moment it’s far too easy.
“I’m not sure how they can get him out bowling this … it’s not Test match cricket. This is not Test match quality.”
West Indies spinner Roston Chase was also immensely uninspiring, finishing with figures of 0-140 from 31 overs.
“If you told me Roston Chase was going to bowl the most overs I would’ve said, ‘You’re joking’,” Waugh scoffed.
Thankfully for the West Indies, openers Brathwaite (18 not out) and Chanderpaul (47 not out) ensured their day ended on a high by taking the shine off the Kookaburra and remaining unbeaten at stumps.
Smith equals the Don with his 29th ton | 01:44
HEAD A ‘VALUABLE COMMODITY’ DESPITE INCONSISTENCY
Travis Head waltzed to the crease after the lunch break with the hosts cruising at 3-402, a dream situation for the South Australian.
He was given permission to play with freedom and attack the fatigued West Indies bowlers, falling agonisingly short of a fifth Test century less than three hours later.
Head and Steve Smith were ruthless in the afternoon session at Perth Stadium, smacking 166 runs in less than 30 overs to demoralise the visitors.
The 28-year-old wasn’t extravagant with his strokeplay — he picked the gaps and pushed for twos, rotating the strike and attacking anything overpitched.
Devastation as Head falls short on 99! | 02:12
He was the perfect ally for Smith, guiding his teammate towards a fourth Test double-century.
Head is quickly establishing himself as a dangerous middle-order Test batter, capable of grinding opponents into the dirt after a solid start from Australia’s top four.
The left-hander cracked two speedy centuries against England during last year’s Ashes series, putting the Australians in dominant positions at Brisbane and Hobart on both occasions.
It’s similar to the role legendary wicketkeeper Adam Gilchrist played for Australia at the start of the century, flicking a switch and counterattacking when the opposition desperately needed wickets.
“He’ll be a wonderful attacking weapon for Australia in Test match cricket,” Gilchrist said.
“I think there’ll be periods when it doesn’t quite work with that style of aggression; selectors and the team and supporters will have to support Travis Head and stay with him because he’ll be so damaging like he’s been today.
“There will be times when it doesn’t work and I think he’s such a valuable commodity to have in this team that we’ve got to stick with him.
“Frustratingly he misses out on a Test century, but what difference does one run make other than a stat in the book.
“He played beautifully … it’s challenging to do when you’ve essentially sat for a day and half and watched.”
The only hurdle left for Head is replicating these performances on foreign soil — all four of his Test centuries to date have taken place in Australia.
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‘CLASSY’ SMITH EQUALS THE GREAT SIR DON
Steve Smith now sits equal fourth on the all-time Test century-makers for Australia, after bringing up a “classy” unbeaten double ton.
The star batsman started his Perth innings with plenty of patience, and it paid off on day two when he was able to register his fourth double ton in Test cricket.
Gilchrist was full of praise for Smith’s “faultless” innings, which helped Australia towards 4/598 declared.
“It’s a historic day to join Sir Donald Bradman – widely deemed as the best ever,” Gilchrist said.
“We’ve often referred to Steve Smith in the same conversation but now statistically he has caught up to him in regards to Test match centuries and then went on to capitalise and then turn it into a double century.
“It was high skill and a real pleasure to watch, given he’s been working so much on his game even at this stage of his career to see him get reward.”
Only Ricky Ponting (41), Steve Waugh (32) and Matthew Hayden (30) have more Test centuries for Australia than Smith. West Indies cricket great Brian Lara described Smith’s stats as “unbelievable”, given he now sat alongside Bradman.
“First of all, it’s embarrassing – a lot of batsmen don’t want to be compared because in reality we pale in comparison (to Bradman),” he said on Fox Cricket.
“To get 29 Test hundreds anywhere in the world as a batter is something that you would dream of. Smith has done it consistently.
“It’s just unbelievable. It was a chanceless innings. “This innings was something of full class.”
MARNUS IS A LUCKY BOY
Since replacing Steve Smith as a concussion substitute in the 2019 Lord’s Test, Marnus Labuschagne has been a marvel in the Australian Test side.
The Queenslander has averaged 63.32 with the bat in Tests since August 2019, cracking eight centuries and 12 fifties in 24 matches.
He’s statistically Australia’s best No. 3 batter since Bradman (minimum 35 innings), averaging 64.05 at first drop.
But Labuschagne’s success hasn’t come without some luck.
The right-hander has been dropped 17 times in Test cricket since July 2019, with fielders only holding onto 55 per cent of the chances he has offered.
Only England captain Ben Stokes and Sri Lankan opener Dimuth Karunaratne have been put down more often during that period.
“He is the luckiest Test batsman there is in history so far statistically,” former Australian opener Ed Cowan told the ABC Grandstand podcast last summer.
Labuschagne was kindly gifted a couple of extra lives during his classy 204 against the West Indies in the first Test at Perth Stadium
Jason Holder missed a sharp catch at second slip on day one, while debutant Tagenarine Chanderpaul grassed one in the outfield late on Wednesday.
Then on Thursday morning, West Indies gloveman Joshua Da Silva dropped a tough chance when Labuschagne attempted a lap shot on 194.
Da Silva made up for the misdemeanour soon after, taking the catch that ultimately ended Labuschagne’s marathon moments before the lunch break on day two.
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AUSSIE YOUNG GUN’S WAIT CONTINUES
Poor Cameron Green.
Due to Western Australia’s strict border protocols during the Covid-19 pandemic, the young all-rounder had to wait two years for the chance to play Test cricket in front of friends and family.
Green, who made his Test debut in December 2020, finally had an opportunity to don the baggy green at Perth Stadium this week, but it looks as though he won’t be required to bat against the West Indies.
Australia’s top-order compiled 4/598 in the first innings, with skipper Pat Cummins declaring following the dismissal of Travis Head in the evening session of day two.
Green, who waited with his pads on for nearly three hours, never got a chance to wield the willow.
The 23-year-old, of course, will still play a crucial role in the field, with his right-arm pace proving a dangerous weapon on Australian wickets. Last summer, he claimed 13 wickets at 15.76 in five Ashes Tests.
But despite the team’s success, Green will feel slightly peeved that he’ll almost certainly need to wait another 12 months for the chance to bat in front of a home crowd at Perth.