CRUCIAL: Ponting, Cowan steady the ship as visitors take impressive lead
ROSEAU (DOMINICA): IN what was almost certainly his final innings in the Caribbean, Ricky Ponting provided a crucial half-century as Australia built a lead of 310 runs by the close of the third day of the final test against West Indies.
The former Australia captain, who will be in his forties the next time his team tour the region, put on 87 for the third wicket with left-hander Ed Cowan. The pair have not enjoyed a fruitful tour but with the 1-0 series lead on the line, they guided their team to a commanding position.
Australia were 200 for six at stumps, a respectable score on a surface which continued to offer sharp turn and bounce to West Indies spinners Shane Shillingford and Narsingh Deonarine, who picked up two wickets apiece.
The day had begun somewhat frustratingly for the tourists as the West Indian tail produced some badly needed lower order fight, mustering 98 runs from the last two partnerships. The hosts were finally bowled out for 218, 30 minutes before lunch, and then removed Australia opener Dave Warner cheaply when he edged Kemar Roach to Shivnarine Chanderpaul in the slips.
West Indies' hopes of making inroads into the Australian batting line-up, in a test they must win to tie the series, were further boosted when Shane Watson was removed in the third over after the resumption. The Queenslander was caught at leg slip by West Indies skipper Darren Sammy on five, trying to steer Shillingworth to the on-side as Australia slumped to 25-2.
But Ponting and left-hander Cowan took a firm grip on the match, taking the score to 112 before the latter was removed for 55 by a superb catch from Sammy, who held on to a hard and high catch at slip off Deonarine. Ponting's experience ensured another useful stand, as he and captain Michael Clarke added a further 56 before paceman Kemar Roach, who has troubled Ponting so often removed him with a short, rising delivery that was top-edged to Chanderpaul for 57.
With the lead rising, West Indies needed to finish the final session with some impact and they did so with Clarke (25) deflecting Shillingford to Darren Bravo and Matthew Wade, a century-maker in the first innings, being hit on the toe, plumb in front, from Deonarine.
The wickets still left Australia in a powerful position in the game, especially given West Indies fragile batting display in the first innings.
Earlier, Chandepaul's typically patient 68 from 164 balls was the anchor in a West Indies batting rally. The Guyanese left-hander was well supported by Ravi Rampaul who moved to 31 before an ill-judged attempt to hit against Nathan Lyon's off-spin resulted in a thick outside edge that was easily taken by Warner.
Last man Roach played his junior partner role well, adding 32 with Chanderpaul before the latter was trapped lbw by Mitchell Starc. Reuters