Australian batsmen Ricky Ponting (right) and Michael Clarke make a run. Photo: AFP
ED COWAN and Ricky Ponting both hit much-needed half-centuries but Australia blew a chance to slam the door shut on the West Indies in the third Test on Wednesday.
The Australians remain firmly in control of the match but the Windies still have a flicker of hope of squaring the series after dismissing Ponting in bizarre fashion, Michael Clarke and Matthew Wade in the final hour of play.
Australian batsman Ed Cowan slips a shot past West Indies Carlton Baugh. Photo: AFP
The beleaguered Windies batting line-up, however, still face a massive final-innings run chase on a spin-friendly wicket if they are to square the series.
Australia will resume on the fourth day on 6-200, a lead of 310, after dismissing the Windies for 218 shortly before lunch.
Any hope the Windies had of playing themselves back into the game seemed remote when Cowan, batting with a sore wrist, and Ponting, the two men under most pressure for their places in Australia's top six, were at the crease.
Although the pair did not find scoring easy, they gradually wore down the Windies bowlers with a dour 87-run stand.
After surviving testing new-ball spells from Kemar Roach and spinner Shane Shillingford, the pair were their own greatest enemies thanks to some mindless running between the wickets.
Twice Cowan - who nearly ran himself out on six while batting with Shane Watson before lunch - and Ponting came close to ending each other's innings.
On the first occasion, with Ponting on 27, Cowan shaped to run after hitting the ball to mid-on, confusing his partner, who took off but scrambled back to the non-striker's end in time.
After tea, it was Cowan who had the close shave. He hesitated to Ponting's call for a second, then almost collided with the veteran before beating an errant throw with a desperate dive.
Cowan's half-century should ease some of the speculation over his Test future, though it was not a smooth innings.
He was dropped on six after lunch against Shillingford and came tantalisingly close to playing Roach on to his stumps when on 21.
To Cowan's credit, however, he became more assured against spin as his innings wore on, so much so that his dismissal was most unexpected.
After growing more confident on the back foot to Shillingford, he chose the wrong ball to cut the tall spinner and was brilliantly caught at slip by Darren Sammy for 55.
Ponting was more comfortable though seldom did he play like the man who regularly tore apart attacks during his prime.
Shortly after reaching his first half-century of the tour, Ponting fell to Roach for the fifth time in his career. Choosing to duck instead of pulling a bouncer, Ponting left his bat in the air like a periscope, the ball hitting the back of his blade and looping invitingly for Shivnarine Chanderpaul to take the catch running from first slip.
Clarke followed three overs later, caught at square pulling Shillingford for 25 after being deceived by the extra bounce, before Wade was controversially adjudged lbw to Narsingh Deonarine for four three overs before stumps.
Earlier, a dogged half-century from Shivnarine Chanderpaul limited Australia's first-innings advantage to 110.
Chanderpaul made 68 and shared stands of 66 and 32 with tailenders Ravi Rampaul and Roach to push the Windies beyond 200.
Nathan Lyon finished with 4-69 while Mitchell Starc claimed two wickets despite showing signs of rust in his first match in seven weeks.