Windies battle back from brink in Gabba Test contest

Murray Wenzel |

West Indies skipper Kraigg Brathwaite has opted to bat first after winning the second Test toss.
West Indies skipper Kraigg Brathwaite has opted to bat first after winning the second Test toss.

The Australian cricket summer’s longest partnership has given West Indies a fighting chance at the Gabba, Josh Da Silva and second-gamer Kavem Hodge showing welcome grit to halt another quick kill.

The pair came together at 5-64 after a devastating opening session in Brisbane on Thursday and defied the narrative to put on 149 and pilot the visitors to 8-266.

It took 311 balls for the hosts to crack the pair, their union the most profitable in a day-night Test against Australia and comfortably the longest in terms of balls faced by any team this summer.

Joshua Da Silva with Kavem Hodge.
Josh Da Silva and Kavem Hodge frustrated Australia’s bowlers in a big sixth-wicket partnership. (Darren England/AAP PHOTOS)

The welcome retort, which also featured some final-hour swagger from debutant Kevin Sinclair (16no) and Alzarri Joseph (32 off 21 balls), followed a 10-wicket loss in Adelaide’s series opener.

That match finished before lunch on day three in the venue’s shortest-ever Test and the hosts looked on pace to match it in Brisbane.

Mitchell Starc (4-68) had ripped through the visitor’s top order to become just the third left-arm quick – and fifth Australian in total – to take at least 350 Test wickets.

But, on a wicket that had its last hint of green shaved clean before play, the pink ball quickly softened.

And wicketkeeper Da Silva (79) and No.5 Hodge (71), in just his second Test, looked at ease in a chanceless middle session that featured some sublime straight and cover drives.

Nathan Lyon (1-62) found the breakthrough, Da Silva trapped in front and unsuccessfully reviewing less than three overs before the introduction of the second new ball.

Hodge couldn’t see it off, playing across the line as Starc nabbed a fourth wicket shortly after 9pm local time.

“We would have liked to finish the day maybe a bit better with one of us getting a hundred, or both of us,” Da Silva said.

“There is no way it was expected … we are pretty happy.

“Against one of the best teams in the world we showed we are here to fight.”

Mitchell Starc.
Mitchell Starc ran through the West Indies batting early on day one to claim his 350th Test scalp. (Darren England/AAP PHOTOS)

A horizontal Cameron Green, social distancing before play and in the field after a positive COVID-19 test on Wednesday, almost added to his highlight reel in the gully but couldn’t hang on to a Hodge edge when he was on 59.

West Indies skipper Kraigg Braithwaite won the toss and chose to bat in ideal conditions.

He nibbled at a wide Josh Hazlewood (2-32) delivery after scratching four off 25 balls, Kirk McKenzie (21 off 25) then trying to move the game on before Usman Khawaja held onto a sharp high catch at first slip off Pat Cummins (1-70).

Chanderpaul had moved steadily to 21 but his wicket swung the contest in the hosts’ favour, Starc collecting his 349th Test scalp when second slip Steve Smith pocketed a simple catch.

Starc then notched the milestone, Carey taking a regulation edge to see the back of Alick Athanaze for eight.

Justin Greaves (six) was the fifth to fall as newly-crowned ICC Test player of 2023 Khawaja took another sharp catch low to the ground to gift Starc his third.

The 23,602 fans were then witness to an unlikely fightback, while the prospect of weekend rain adds another element of intrigue.

“We know the pink ball gets soft at some point and I think with the firmness of this wicket it started to go soft in the 11th over,” Starc said.

“They applied themselves really well with Da Silva and Hodge then we got a couple of late (wickets).

“I’d say a pretty even day on that wicket.”