Sport

Australia v West Indies Boxing Day Test 2015: Marsh and Lyon prevent Test from dragging into final day

The West Indies lost the Test but gained some respect, while Australia have Nathan Lyon and Mitch Marsh to thank for sparing them from needing to return to the MCG on day five to win the Boxing Day Test and seal a series victory.

Victors: Australia celebrate the final wicket and winning the second Test against the West Indies.
Victors: Australia celebrate the final wicket and winning the second Test against the West Indies. Photo: Getty Images

Off-spinner Lyon and all-rounder Marsh were responsible for all but three of the West Indies second-innings wickets to fall on day four. The last three came in what were scheduled to be the final four overs of the day.

The best contribution made by the fast-bowling contingent of Josh Hazlewood, James Pattinson and Peter Siddle all day came when Pattinson took a sprawling catch running in from deep fine-leg off Marsh to remove Jerome Taylor for a duck. It ended the West Indies' innings on 282, giving Australia a 177-run victory and an unassailable 2-0 lead in the Frank Worrell Trophy series.

Peter Nevill (front) and Steve Smith celebrate the wicket of Jermaine Blackwood.
Peter Nevill (front) and Steve Smith celebrate the wicket of Jermaine Blackwood. Photo: AP

Given how badly the West Indies were beaten in Hobart, and started this Test in the same fashion, captain Jason Holder said he was pleased with his team's response in Melbourne, even though it too ended in defeat.

"I'm obviously proud of the way the guys showed some fight in this game. I'm still disappointed we didn't put up a better fight but still credit to the way the guys played, especially Darren Bravo in the first innings and Denesh Ramdin in the second innings. I just though the bowlers tried [too]," he said. "A better effort in this game."

Australia captain Steve Smith echoed those sentiments from Holder.

"The West Indies were up for the fight. I think they improved a lot from the Test," he said.

Marsh's tenure in the Test team has been - and remains - under scrutiny because of his modest contributions with the bat. With the ball, however, his continued improvement has been obvious. He took another positive steps on Tuesday by claiming 4-61, which included removing the only two West Indies players to reach a half-century: Ramdin and Holder.

Captain Smith's decision to discard Hazlewood after just three overs with the second new ball was rewarded by his replacement, Marsh, removing Holder, albeit courtesy of a rare poor shot from the West Indies captain. He had also delivered a crucial blow just before the second new ball, by having Ramdin caught behind to end the wicketkeeper's century partnership with Holder.

"I was glad with the way we finished off. Taking that wicket [of Ramdin] just before the new ball was crucial for us," Smith said. "I felt once we got the new ball I was pretty confident that we'd get the wickets, and it turned out that way."

The captain also commended Lyon, whose 3-85 included removing debutant Carlos Brathwaite with a delivery that tickled the off bail just enough to dislodge it, in the last over before the second new ball.

"'Lyono' did what he's done so well for us this summer, got wickets for us at crucial times. he's bowled beautifully," Smith said.

Australia coach Darren Lehmann was similarly complimentary, declaring the off-spinner was in the frame for selection for the World Twenty20 in March.

The West Indies' lack of resistance after Holder's departure - Kemar Roach and Jerome Taylor fell in the following nine deliveries - ensured there was no final day required. This would have been to the relief of Cricket Australia, given day four attracted a paltry 7161, almost a 75 per cent decline from day three, and even fewer would have been expected if there had been a day five.

In Hobart the home team needed just 106.3 overs to bowl out the West Indies twice. Even though they lasted just over 100 overs in the first inning there would have been little trepidation for Smith in declaring at Australia's overnight score of 3-179, setting the West Indies a target of 460.

By the final session however, the visitors had symbolically passed the half-way mark of their chase while still having half of their wickets in hand.

None of the three specialist pacemen bowled badly, yet neither did they look likely to stop the match entering a fifth day. This was reflected in Smith giving Hazlewood only three overs with the second new ball, even though he was economical, and recalling Marsh in his place.

Hazlewood bowled 41 overs across nine spells in the match without taking a wicket. The only time he looked likely to - and should have - came in the last over before lunch, when he had Bravo edging behind to Peter Nevill. Just as Pattinson did not learn from his overstepping mistake early on the previous day, as he did it again later, Hazlewood also failed to heed the lesson - but was not carpeted by Smith for doing so.

"The bowlers don't mean to overstep the mark. It's been a pretty big issue for us this game. We obviously had to take 23 wickets rather than 20 on a wicket that was quite hard to take wickets on," Smith said.

While it may be tempting to take the wicketless match from Hazlewood as evidence the 24-year-old needs to rest, a better solution would be to allow him to play in Sydney - less because it is at his home venue than it would help him learn how to respond from an underwhelming performance. The one-day series that follows would be a better window for rest.

Given the extent to which Australia dominated the first half of the Test, when a three-day match seemed possible, Smith lamented that the visitors got so close to forcing the match into a fifth day.

"We probably let ourselves down a little bit, obviously with the ... no-balls. [Needing to be] taking an extra three wickets probably takes a bit of time out of the game," he said.

Even though the bowlers lacked penetration, Smith was otherwise happy with Australia's effort in the field.

"I thought our energy, intent and all that in the field was probably as good as it's been this summer," he said.