Australia's captain Michael Clarke appeals for the LBW of West Indies' batsman Shivnarine Chanderpaul. Photo: AP
MICHAEL CLARKE dipped into his bag of tricks and was forced to wait several hours to find a rabbit as Australia were given a huge scare by the West Indies in the third Test on Thursday.
A Test, and series, which appeared in Australia's keeping only 24 hours ago was in danger of ending in disappointment until Clarke made a golden intervention with the last ball of day four.
Australian captain Michael Clarke (right) celebrates with Ed Cowan after taking the wicket of West Indies batsman Kieran Powell. Photo: AFP
With the aid of a referral, Clarke claimed the key wicket of danger man Shivnarine Chanderpaul lbw for 69, all but extinguishing any hope the Windies had of pulling off a stunning come-from-behind victory to level the series.
Chanderpaul's wicket came shortly after the dismissal of rising star Darren Bravo, ensuring the Australians can sleep more comfortably tonight than they would have earlier in the last session.
The Windies will resume on the last day of what has been an engrossing series on 5-173, needing a miracle to score the remain 197 runs needed to overhaul Australia's imposing victory target of 370.
With help from rising star Darren Bravo, Chanderpaul breathed life into what appeared a lost cause early in the afternoon but their late dismissals have scuttled hopes of a thrilling climax to the series.
The hosts were lamenting earlier this week how they could not find a partner for Chanderpaul who could hold down an end, but Bravo stepped up at the right time.
The pair defied a tiring Australian attack for some two-and-a-half hours, adding 110 runs for the fourth wicket.
As hard as Clarke waved his magic wand, his constant stream of bowling changes failed to produce a breakthrough for much of the afternoon.
What had been a difficult batting wicket suddenly turned into a batsman's paradise, particularly with Nathan Lyon enduring an off day.
The tweaker, who seemed to be relying on turn rather than guile to succeed, failed to recapture the venom which made him so dangerous in the first innings. That it happened after Shane Shillingford completed a 10-wicket haul earlier in the day was telling.
Disappointingly for the visitors, Clarke was Australia's most dangerous spinner, capturing three wickets.
To the Windies' credit, however, they batted with considerable discipline, particularly Bravo, who is renowned for his dashing strokeplay.
Instead, he was prepared to play the support act to Chanderpaul, who became the 10th Test player to pass the 10,000-run mark.
But just as Bravo was about to step on the accelerator, he lost his concentration and fished at a delivery angled across him from Shane Watson and was well caught by Wade low to his right.
His stoic innings would have only rubbed salt into the wounds of the Windies' top order, which again failed dismally.
While Adrian Barath had an alibi - in the form of a superb diving catch by Ed Cowan off the bowling of Ben Hilfenhaus - Kraigg Brathwaite and Kieran Powell did not.
Brathwaite ended a run of three straight ducks, making 14 before he played across the line to Clarke and was trapped in front.
Powell was equally culpable, bowled through the gate trying to drive Australian captain when on 24.
The Australians were earlier dismissed for 259 after a rare failure by their tail.
Shillingford finished with 4-100 in the second innings and 10 for the match.