Port of Spain: A week after he smashed the West Indian bowlers around Barbados to lead Australia to a thrilling victory in fading light, Mike Hussey was back in a completely different role, grinding his way to a crucial half-century that could deliver another victory for his team.
On a Queen's Park Oval pitch that was offering plenty of turn to the spinners and sideways movement for the seamers, Hussey held firm against the West Indian bowlers to make a watchful 73 in Australia's first innings total of 311.
In a low-scoring match, Hussey's knock could turn out to be the difference, although he was cautious about making any early predictions on a difficult batting surface. "I think we've still got plenty of hard work to do. If they want to get stuck right in and grind them out as we did, it will be hard, particularly as the ball gets softer," he told reporters after the second day in Trinidad.
"The odd one is spinning a lot. The odd one is staying low. The odd one is bouncing a bit. So you can't trust the conditions, you can't trust the pitch to go through with your shots."
Australia finished the day strongly, reducing West Indies to 49 for 3 at stumps, but Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Darren Bravo were still at the crease. Hussey said those two batsmen held the key to the match. "We've got two quality players at the crease now. It's a key partnership in the match," said Hussey. "If we can pick these two up quickly tomorrow [Tuesday] morning, I think it will put us in a great position; however, if they get a good partnership going, we could have to work very, very hard for the wickets. It's interestingly placed, the Test match, and it's a really big first session tomorrow [Tuesday] morning."
Australia captain Michael Clarke pulled a surprise when he opened the bowling with left-arm spinner Michael Beer, but Hussey said he thought it was a great tactic. "It's very difficult for an opening batsman and it proved to be that way," Hussey said. "He [Michael Beer] got a couple to turn really sharply past the bat. He got a couple to shoot down low, with which he got the wicket of Barath. So I think it turned out to be an excellent call by the captain."
West Indies' paceman Kemar Roach, who bagged five wickets on a pitch more suited to the slow bowlers, was confident his team could still win the match. "We lost some wickets this evening but we still have Shivnarine Chanderpaul at the crease and Darren Bravo. So I'm backing ourselves to get a score and go forward from there, and hopefully win the Test match," he said.
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