Cricket Australia has withdrawn their men’s team from a scheduled three-match ODI series against Afghanistan to be played in the UAE in March following consultation with the Australian government.
Australia were scheduled to play Afghanistan as part of the ICC Super League following the tour of India. But CA released a statement on Thursday stating that it had withdrawn from the series following a recent announcement from the Taliban that it was banning university education for girls, which ICC CEO Geoff Allardice described as concerning.
“Following extensive consultation with relevant stakeholders, including the Australian Government, Cricket Australia has decided that it is unable to proceed at this time with the upcoming ICC Super League three-match Men’s ODI series between Australia and Afghanistan scheduled for the UAE in March 2023,” the CA statement said.
“This decision follows the recent announcement by the Taliban of further restrictions on women’s and girls’ education and employment opportunities and their ability to access parks and gyms.
“CA is committed to supporting growing the game for women and men around the world, including in Afghanistan, and will continue to engage with the Afghanistan Cricket Board in anticipation of improved conditions for women and girls in the country.
“We thank the Australian Government for its support on this matter.”
The ICC has also expressed its concern over the situation in Afghanistan. “We want to see men and women safely playing cricket in Afghanistan and have consistently held the view that the best way to achieve this is by supporting our Member, the Afghanistan Cricket Board, in its endeavours to develop the game in the country,” an ICC spokesperson told ESPNcricinfo. “We are concerned by recent developments in Afghanistan and the ICC board will consider the implications of these developments at its next meeting and we remain in contact with other global sporting organisations who share our aim of seeing men and women playing sport in Afghanistan.”
This is the second time in two years CA has cancelled a bilateral fixture with Afghanistan due to the Taliban government’s policies on women following the postponement of the one-off Test that was scheduled to be played in Hobart in November 2021.
Australia did play Afghanistan in Adelaide during the recent T20 World Cup. The two sides have met four times in international cricket but never in a Test match and only once in a bilateral match in 2012, with the other three meetings coming in World Cups.
Australia are slated to meet Afghanistan twice more in the next Future Tours cycle with three T20Is scheduled for a neutral venue in August 2024 and Afghanistan due to tour Australia in August 2026 to play one Test and three T20Is.
Usman Khawaja made his highest Test score, while Steven Smith overtook Sir Donald Bradman in the record books with his 30th Test hundred, as Australia gained a stranglehold on the third Test against a hapless South Africa.
Khawaja was ruthless on a slow SCG surface to finish unbeaten on 195 and anchor Australia’s massive 475 for 4. But their push for a declaration before stumps on day two was thwarted by rain ending play an hour early.
With a declaration looming, Khawaja and Travis Head accelerated after tea with Australia keen on moving the match forward due to more rain forecast in Sydney on days three and four.
In what has become a trademark, Head played a swashbuckling innings to smash a flagging South Africa attack with a 59-ball 70 before holing out. In his first Test match since 2018, and having tested positive for Covid-19 on a rapid antigen test before play on day one, Matt Renshaw was on 5 not out.
Khawaja bettered his highest Test score of 174 in streaky fashion with a gloved boundary that just beat high-flying wicketkeeper Kyle Verreynne. His 13th Test century took him level with Wally Hammond, Doug Walters and VVS Laxman as the only batters to have struck three consecutive tons at the SCG.
Having revived his Test career a year ago with twin centuries against England on this ground, Khawaja has now hit four centuries from seven Tests at the SCG with an average over 100.
It ended a frustrating Test summer for Khawaja, who had missed out on Australia’s run glut and only averaged 27.43 from seven previous innings.
Khawaja combined in a 209-run partnership with Smith to torment South Africa for most of the first two sessions on day two. It was their 10th century partnership from just 33 innings and their highest stand, overtaking their 188 against England at the SCG in 2018.
Having moved past Bradman on the career Test century list with his 30th ton, Smith fell for 104 after tamely spooning a return catch to spinner Keshav Maharaj.
After a slow start, Smith produced a masterclass and reached his ton with a pull shot to the boundary off Anrich Nortje. His back-foot trigger movement was more pronounced in this innings, having been refined earlier in the season, but it didn’t affect his game with Smith toying with the bowlers.
It would have particularly satisfied Smith, who in 20 previous innings against South Africa averaged 41.67 – nearly 20 below his career mark. His only Test ton was in his first innings against them when he struck 100 in Centurion in 2014.
In the process, Smith overtook Matthew Hayden and Michael Clarke to sit fourth overall in Test career runs for Australia. He also passed 1000 Test runs at the SCG as he struck his fourth ton on his home ground.
Another strong Australian batting effort put them on track for a clean sweep of the series with victory to secure a position in the World Test Championship final in June. They also completely sucked the life out of a beleaguered South Africa, who have been out of answers.
With just four wickets in 131 overs, the spotlight might further shine on under-pressure skipper Dean Elgar who has seemingly been reactionary and conservative with his tactics.
He juggled his bowlers sometimes bafflingly like when Nortje and spearhead Kagiso Rabada were not used after lunch with offspinner Simon Harmer taking an almost brand new ball.
Harmer had been under-bowled on day one and in the first session, but struggled to make an impact and was hit for a huge six by a fleet-footed Smith.
Nortje couldn’t quite summon the same fire he conjured during his heroic day one effort, where he claimed the only two wickets, while Rabada was wayward to continue a disappointing series.
There was relief for left-arm spinner Maharaj after removing Smith out of nowhere. He was finally rewarded having leaked 247 runs off 75.5 overs in the series before his long overdue first scalp.
Their chances of a victory to revive their slim chances of making the World Test Championship final appear forlorn. To avoid a series whitewash, South Africa might need Sydney’s temperamental weather to further intervene.
Stumps Australia 475 for 4 (Khawaja 195*, Smith 104, Head 70, Nortje 2-55) vs South Africa
Stumps Australia 147 for 2 (Labuschagne 79, Khawaja 54*, Nortje 2-26) vs South Africa
Marnus Labuschagne and Usman Khawaja hit half-centuries for Australia on a truncated day one before Anrich Nortje helped South Africa claw back into the third Test at a gloomy SCG.
After captain Pat Cummins won a crucial toss and elected to bat on a dry surface, Australia reached stumps at 147 for 2 with Khawaja unbeaten on 54 and Steven Smith yet to face a delivery.
Labuschagne fell for 79 on what turned out to be the final delivery of the day’s play. Only 47 overs were bowled due to bad light and rain much to the disappointment of the 31,000 crowd in another Sydney Test match affected by inclement conditions.
Labuschagne and Khawaja had built a strong platform with a 135-run partnership after the early loss of opener David Warner for 10. There was a delay of more than two hours due to bad light before five overs were squeezed in late in the day and Nortje capitalised with a cracking delivery to remove Labuschagne.
Exerting plenty of energy, Nortje conjured sharp bounce and pace on the slow surface to produce an unplayable delivery that had Labuschagne caught behind.
After a lionhearted effort in Melbourne, Nortje was again the standout with 2 for 26 from 11 overs having earlier taken the wicket of Warner. He has kept a struggling South Africa buoyant after Australia threatened to grab an early stranglehold of the contest.
Labuschagne had been irrepressible until on 70 he appeared to be dismissed out of nowhere when he edged seamer Marco Jansen to first slip where Simon Harmer claimed a low catch.
It was given out on the soft signal but Labuschagne stood his ground and it seemed difficult to prove from replays whether Harmer had his hands under the ball close to the turf.
Third umpire Richard Kettleborough overturned the decision much to the frustration of South Africa. It only furthered Labuschagne’s reputation as a rather charmed batter but he had played imperiously before that contentious incident with five boundaries in 12 balls to go from 40 to 61.
After bowling well before lunch, Harmer trapped Khawaja lbw with the second delivery of the second session only for the decision to be reversed when replays showed the ball hit the glove first.
Having revived his career a year ago with twin centuries against England on this ground, Khawaja passed 4000 career Test runs en route to a half-century.
Under-pressure South Africa captain Dean Elgar once again made questionable decisions, including under-utilising Harmer who bowled just five overs even though his off-spin particularly threatened left-handed Khawaja.
Elgar, however, backed underperforming left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj who bowled nine overs for 35 runs with Labuschagne and Khawaja sweeping effectively against him.
Maharaj has now bowled 52.5 overs without reward in this series.
While Nortje toiled, spearhead Kagiso Rabada continued his underwhelming series to finish with 0 for 45 off 12 overs. He unsuccessfully reverted to bowling short against Labuschagne, who counterattacked with ease.
Ashton Agar, Josh Hazlewood and Matt Renshaw were named in an Australia team attempting a clean sweep of the series and a spot in the World Test Championship final in June.
There was drama when Renshaw, playing his first Test since 2018, tested positive for Covid-19 on a rapid antigen test after feeling unwell before the day’s play, but he will continue to play in the match.
With the SCG surface set to play more traditionally, Australia named two frontline spinners at home for the first time in six years with left-arm spinner Agar making his return having not played Tests since 2017.
Regular quick Hazlewood returned from a side strain having edged out Scott Boland and uncapped tearaway Lance Morris.
Along with Harmer, who replaced Lungi Ngidi, South Africa named batter Heinrich Klaasen in place of Theunis de Bruyn who returned home for the birth of his first child.
South Africa still have a slim chance at qualifying for the WTC final with a consolation victory as their spirit lifted after Njorte’s late heroics.
South Africa 189 and 15 for 1 trail Australia 575 for 8 dec (Warner 200, Carey 111, Smith 85, Green 51*, Head 51) by 371 runs
Alex Carey scored his maiden Test hundred as Australia piled on the runs at the MCG then removed South Africa captain Dean Elgar in the second over before rain brought an early end to the third day
Australia piled on 189 runs in 54 overs on an overcast day with Carey and Cameron Green, who defied a fractured finger, adding 117 for the eighth wicket against an increasingly exhausted attack. South Africa were kept in the field for more than five sessions and bowled 145 overs in total and were unable to bowl Australia out on a surface that remained good for batting.
Elgar was unable to take advantage of them as he gloved Pat Cummins down the leg side off the third ball he faced. The edge died on Carey but replays showed he took a clean catch low down to send Elgar back for a duck. It was the second time in the series Elgar had been dismissed in this fashion after also being caught down leg in the first innings in Brisbane.
Australia could have done further damage when Cummins found Theunis de Bruyn’s edge in his next over but it swerved away from David Warner at first slip and he could not hold on. Mitchell Starc, who bowled despite suffering tendon damage his finger in the field on the first day, just missed Sarel Erwee’s edge and had two appeals for lbw against de Bruyn which were missing. Starc was expected to continue bowling despite his wound, which opens up as he bowls and necessitates him to mop up the blood after almost every delivery.
Starc was not the only one who battled through pain. Green also had a broken finger after being hit while batting but returned to the crease to score an unbeaten half-century and provide solid defence while Carey counterattacked. The pair ground South Africa’s attack down after a bright start. Despite bowling in 40 degree heat throughout the second day, South Africa came out with good intent and, helped by cooler conditions, struck early. They took three wickets in six balls as Anrich Nortje turned up the heat.
After Travis Head reached a 54-ball 50 with a pull off a short ball, Nortje went full and straight and took out his off stump. The dismissal brought Warner, who retired hurt with cramp after reaching 200 on day, back for more. He danced to the crease but was met by a Nortje ball that zoned in on leg stump, beat the flick and bowled him. Warner, having walked back in to a standing ovation, left to another.
Cummins found the boundary when he steered a wide Nortje ball through point and then nicked off against Kagiso Rabada. South Africa were convinced of the edge but needed to confirm it on review.
South Africa had created an opening but Carey and Green soon closed it with a stand that shut out the attack. Carey was strong on the drive and drilled Lungi Ngidi for three successive fours including the one that brought up his fifty while Green was content with biding his time as he tried to protect his finger from any further blows.
Carey brought up the Australian 500 with a top-edge off a hook shot from a Rabada bouncer and his own hundred when he ran three off Jansen. He was the first Australian wicketkeeper to score a century in nine years, since Brad Haddin in 2013. His innings ended when a popped a short delivery from Jansen straight up in the air.
By then, Green had faced 164 balls and if there was any pain, he wasn’t showing it. He had also started to play some shots and took on the short ball. He reached fifty off 170 balls with a cut over point. To add insult to injury, Starc also tucked into the bouncer and top-edged Nortje over square leg to six. In the next over, Starc was hit on the helmet and was undergoing his concussions check when Cummins called the batters in.
Australia will operate with a four-man attack for the rest of the match, with Green unable to bowl. Head and Marnus Labuschagne are expected to provide back-up if required.
Australia 386 for 3 (Head 48, Carey 9) lead South Africa 189 by 197 runs
An epic David Warner innings in his milestone match. A 239-run partnership with Steven Smith, who brought up 1,000 runs at the MCG A scoring rate of 4.3 runs per over in the day, which peaked at 5.54 in the final session, in temperatures that touched 40 degrees. This was Australia’s day.
They seized control of the Melbourne Test and the series and are on track to beat South Africa at home for the first time since the 2005-06 summer.
Before the Test, amid questions over his long-format future, Warner promised to return to his old self and take on the bowling and he stayed true to his word. From his opening runs on the second day – a square cut off Kagiso Rabada’s first ball – to his final runs when an edge flew wide of slip and brought up his 200, Warner took the fight to South Africa. He became the second batter to score a double hundred in his 100th Test after Joe Root in a display of extreme determination, strong strokeplay and incredible fitness.
In a minute less than six hours at the crease, Warner ran 63 singles, 14 twos, seven threes and three fours, in addition to the 16 fours and two sixes he hit. No South African bowler was spared but Warner asserted his authority over their spearhead Rabada with such assurance, it would not have given the rest much confidence. He scored 57 runs off the 60 balls he faced from Rabada and 72 off 81 from Keshav Maharaj.
On a track that flattened out beautifully for batting, South Africa’s attack were never in the contest and may have some stern words for their line-up, who wasted the opportunity on the first day. Anrich Nortje was the most impressive of an energy-sapped pack and kept his pace above 150kph consistently. His fastest ball was clocked at 155kph. He was also the only one to enjoy some reward, when Smith upper cut a short ball to gully. By then, most of the damage was done.
Smith and Warner put on the second-highest third-wicket stand by Australia against South Africa, after Marnus Labuschagne was run-out in the morning session. Smith was less fluent than usual but still managed to cash in on loose deliveries as the attack grew weary. But his time with Warner was not without its chances.
Lungi Ngidi found Warner’s edge with his third ball, but it flew past gully for four and Marco Jansen drew Smith forward and got a healthy nick, but it fell short of second slip. Then, Smith offered a genuine chance when he gloved Jansen down leg. Kyle Verreynne made good ground to his left but could not hold on before Warner inside edged Ngidi past the stumps.
All those half-chances meant nothing when Warner reached 8,000 Test runs and then went on to bring up his hundred with a pull off Rabada. He celebrated with a jump and air punch. Rabada thought he had Smith before the former captain reached fifty but overstepped on the delivery Smith appeared to glove on the pull although replays were inconclusive. Smith brought up fifty soon after, with a cut past point off Jansen.
Australia led by 42 runs at tea and and accelerated in the final session. They scored 83 runs in 11 overs in the post tea session – and 155 in 28 in total – as they ripped into Ngidi and Rabada. Both bowled a little too short in search of a wicket. Smith looked well on his way to a century of his own before Nortje got the better of him, with Warner eight runs away from a double hundred and starting to cramp severely.
He seemed to barely have the energy to keep going but the motivation of a double ton kept him at the crease until he was able to reach for a wide Ngidi delivery and it flew off the edge to the boundary. His second hundred came off just 110 balls. Warner dropped to his haunches and raised both arms in a double salute but he struggled to get back up. Once he’d made his way to stand, he was helped off the field to an ovation from the 40,000 strong crowd. If he does not return to bat, his will be the highest individual innings in Test cricket to end retired hurt.
South Africa took the second new ball as soon as it became available and it was shared by Nortje and Jansen. While Nortje asked questions again, Jansen only seemed easier to hit. As he searched for swing, Travis Head flicked him over square leg for six and then four and raced to a run-a-ball 48.
Australia are likely to continue to bat for as long as they can, especially as their attack could be depleted for the second innings. Mitchell Starc injured his left middle-finger while fielding on the first day and will bowl only if required while Cameron Green was hit on the right index finger by Jansen while batting and it immediately swelled up. Green also retired hurt which could leave Australia with only Pat Cummins, Scott Boland and Nathan Lyon to close out the match.
Australia 330 for 3 (Labuschagne 120, Head 114, Khawaja 62) vs West Indies
Marnus Labuschagne and hometown hero Travis Head struck near-flawless centuries to dominate the pink ball, as Australia put a struggling West Indies attack to the sword on day one of the second Test in Adelaide.
After stand-in captain Steven Smith elected to bat, Labuschagne and Head combined for an unbeaten fourth-wicket partnership of 199 to power Australia to a commanding position at stumps. Labuschagne hit his 10th Test century on the back of his double-century and hundred in Australia’s 164-run series opening win in Perth.
While his good fortune has been widely noted, rearing again after riding his luck in the first Test, Labuschagne produced a chanceless innings as he became the first Australian batter to notch three straight Test tons since Adam Voges in 2015-16.
He completed the feat with a boundary through point under lights in the final session and raised his arms aloft to strong applause from the 24,449 crowd at the Adelaide Oval. Labuschagne’s 235-ball knock was marked by unwavering concentration and patience in tricky early conditions before he toyed with West Indies’ flagging bowlers.
He was well supported by Head, who scored his fifth Test ton and first on his home ground with a brilliant drive to the boundary much to the delight of the Adelaide Oval faithful. Head’s aggressive mood continued after making 99 in his sole innings in Perth, targeting the short square boundaries and continually plundering West Indies’ increasingly ragged bowling through point.
The pair flattened West Indies’ attempts at a comeback after the quick wickets in the middle session of opener Usman Khawaja and Smith, who fell for just his fifth duck in Tests in Australia. But sloppy bowling and fielding left West Indies frustrated as their hopes of ending a 25-year Test drought in Australia with a series-levelling victory already appearing forlorn.
Much like in Perth, where they claimed only six wickets in 190 overs across two innings, West indies’ bowlers were inconsistent and failed to penetrate on a surface with occasional bounce and movement. Without injured frontline quicks Kemar Roach and Jayden Seales, West Indies speedster Alzarri Joseph unsuccessfully targeted a short-ball strategy and resisted trying to conjure swing with the new ball.
But he did dismiss opener David Warner, who was caught behind for 21 in a rash dismissal in another missed opportunity to end a near three-year Test century drought.
Briefly attempting a rally, West Indies bowled with more discipline in the second session through seamers Jason Holder and Anderson Phillip, who impressed with accuracy in just his second Test match.
But it was debutant Devon Thomas who broke through by trapping Khawaja lbw for 62 with his handy seamers providing a surprise option.
It was a much-needed tonic for an injury-hit West Indies, whose woes deepened when debutant quick Marquino Mindley left the field in the first session with a suspected hamstring injury after bowling just two overs. Mindley had arrived in Adelaide on Monday from the Caribbean as injury cover.
Captain Kraigg Brathwaite scrambled for inspiration throughout the day’s play and used seven bowlers. He unsuccessfully reverted to spinner Roston Chase as the first change bowler in a baffling move. He again unwisely used Chase and his own part-time spin before the tea break to release the pressure on new batter Head, who counterattacked with ease.
It paved the way for a sub-par final session for West Indies under lights with the second new ball failing to do the trick as the beleaguered tourists stare down the barrel of conceding another massive first-innings total to Australia.
Both teams made a host of changes, with Australia’s regular captain Pat Cummins failing to overcome a quad strain he picked up during the first Test, while quick Josh Hazlewood was ruled out with a side strain.
Seamers Scott Boland and Michael Neser added to Test matches they played last summer against England, while former captain Smith took the reins from Cummins like he did in last year’s Ashes Test in Adelaide.
Even though he endured an uncharacteristic failure with the bat, falling to Holder in a return catch, Smith should be well pleased with Australia making a strong start in their bid for an 11th straight day-night Test victory.
(Story by Tristan Lavalette/ESPNcricinfo. Photos from ESPNcricinfo)
West Indies 283 & 192 for 3 (Brathwaite 101, Mayers 0) need 306 more runs to beat Australia 598 for 4 dec & 182 for 2 dec (Labuschagne 104*)
Captain Kraigg Brathwaite scored his 11th Test century to defy an Australian attack without Pat Cummins as a gutsy West Indies pushed the first Test into a fifth day.
Needing a record 498 runs for victory or – more realistically – to bat through 154 overs to draw, Brathwaite superbly batted through the final two sessions of day four to provide hope for the injury-hit tourists.
But West Indies’ chances of starving off defeat in the series opener still appear unlikely even amid the uncertainty over Cummins, who did not bowl after experiencing quadricep soreness/ He returned to the field in the final session and appeared to be moving around without obvious discomfort. An assessment tomorrow morning will determine whether Cummins can bowl on the fifth day.
Nathan Lyon relished shouldering more of the workload and claimed two wickets as he conjured menacing bounce on the Optus Stadium surface.
Leading from the front, Brathwaite was in sublime touch and scored uncharacteristically quickly to make Australia’s shorthanded attack toil. He reached a deserved ton just before stumps but will likely need to bat for the long haul on day five to thwart Australia’s bid for victory.
Brathwaite passed 5000 Test runs with a gorgeous drive down the ground to capitalise on the unavailability of Cummins, who had starred in West Indies’ first innings to claim his 200th Test wicket.
Former skipper Steve Smith took the captaincy reins during Cummins’s absence as Australia failed to make inroads against Brathwaite and debutant Tagenarine Chanderpaul, who batted mostly untroubled through the entire second session. Chanderpaul scored just three runs off his first 36 balls in an effective rearguard alongside a fluent Brathwaite.
For a spark, Smith even resorted to Marnus Labuschagne who bowled medium pacers instead of his usual legspin but it didn’t do the trick.
But the return of Cummins, even though he couldn’t bowl, was surely a tonic for Australia as quick Mitchell Starc finally provided the breakthrough when Chanderpaul chopped on to end an impressive Test debut with scores of 51 and 45.
Starc made amends after dropping Chanderpaul moments earlier on the boundary with Australia’s frustration underlined by Cameron Green punching the ground having missed out on a wicket.
Australia’s mood brightened when Lyon picked up Shamarh Brooks, who as the concussion substitute had batted well against the odds in the first innings but fell cheaply second time around after edging to slip.
Australia hoped to tear through West Indies amid the ground’s increasing shadows but Jermaine Blackwood successfully reviewed a lbw decision off Josh Hazlewood. However, He never looked comfortable and fell to Lyon just before stumps.
Australia had earlier declared their second innings at lunch after Labuschagne added a ton to his first innings double century. Labuschagne rode some luck to become just the third Australia batter after Greg Chappell and Doug Walters to score a double century and century in the same Test.
Labuschagne made 308 runs for the match to continue a personal run spree at Optus Stadium after he scored 143 and 50 against New Zealand three years ago in the last Test played at the ground.
Labuschagne received luck on his way to his ninth Test century when he top-edged to gully via his helmet but was reprieved by a no-ball from Alzarri Joseph amid a riveting battle.
After receiving medical attention, Labuschagne continued on his merry way and passed 2000 Test runs in Australia in his 31st innings. Only Sir Don Bradman (19 in England and 26 in Australia), and Sir Garfield Sobers (29 in West Indies) have achieved the milestone in a country faster.
David Warner, however, missed a golden opportunity to end a three-year Test drought when he fell for 48, while Green didn’t bat in the match in his debut Test at home.
West Indies’ shorthanded attack was unable to limit Australia with spearhead Kemar Roach forced off after injuring his left thigh, while seamer Kyle Mayers did not bowl in the innings due to a strain in his right teres major muscle.
Adding to their woes, top-order batter Nkrumah Bonner was on day three substituted out of the match with concussion after being hit in the back of the helmet from a Green short delivery.
But the beleaguered tourists reached the final day and their hopes rested on their gritty skipper.
Despite boasting a pair of double century makers in the same Test innings for the first time in over a decade, Australia’s remorseless dominance of the first NRMA Insurance Test was stymied by a brave West Indies opening stand that announced the arrival of a new batting hope.
In reply to their hosts’ daunting first innings of 4(dec)-598 – underpinned by Marnus Labuschagne’s 204 and Steve Smith’s unbeaten 200 – the West Indies reached 0-74 at stumps on day two with Tagennarine Chanderpaul in sight of a half-century in his maiden Test innings.
Smith and Labuschagne became the first pair of double century makers in the same innings since Michael Clarke and Ricky Ponting achieved the rare feat against India at Adelaide Oval in 2011, with Travis Head missing out on his triple-figure milestone by the barest of margins.
But in contrast to the often-abject resignation they showed in the latter half of their bowling innings, the West Indies reply with bat in hand was doggedly defiant.
Skipper Kraigg Brathwaite (18no) and his debutant opening partner Chanderpaul (47no from just 73 balls faced) withstood 21 overs of high octane pace bowling under thick evening cloud during which they both copped multiple blows.
Chanderpaul was especially impressive, wearing an eye-watering hit from Josh Hazlewood that left him prostrate on pitch edge for several minutes as team medicos pumped his legs in a brave bid to quell the pain and mitigate the shock.
The fine-boned left-hander was also struck several times on the upper body as he concertina-ed himself limbo-style beneath a barrage of short balls, but in between those moments he drove and cut without fear to suggest a productive career awaits.
The 26-year-old – whose father, Shivnarine, was inducted to the ICC’s Hall of Fame last month – also survived a confident shout for lbw in Mitchell Starc’s second over (when on four) that fell narrowly in his favour when adjudged as ‘umpire’s call’.
Brathwaite also benefited from the DRS process, although the appeal for a catch behind off Pat Cummins when he was on 16 was revealed to be more in hope with the ball passing harmlessly past his outside edge.
But for all the pluck shown by the visitors’ first-wicket pair, they still have a sizeable mountain to scale.
At the close of play yesterday, Usman Khawaja told cricket.com.au he expected day two to offer the best batting conditions of the Test.
But even at his most optimistic, he could not have envisaged Australia would subjugate the West Indies bowling as utterly and remorselessly as they did for 62.4 overs today.
During those two-and-a-bit sessions, they plundered 305 runs against some of the most desultory bowling Test cricket in this country has witnessed for the loss of just two wickets – both of which fell to occasional spinner Brathwaite as the result of self-inflicted wounds.
The first of those was Labuschagne, having celebrated his second Test double-century on the cusp of lunch at which point his half-hearted dab at one of Brathwaite’s round-arm off-breaks nestled in the gloves of keeper Joshua da Silva.
It’s not often a Test batter heads to the sheds with a double-hundred to his name but so demonstrably disconsolate, a clear indication the 28-year-old felt he had left at least another century out there.
It was also a less rueful countenance than that aired by Head, who had motored to 99 at better than a run per ball with his greatest conundrum being how to engage in some mindful eating against a sumptuous buffet of parklands bowling until he outsmarted himself.
With his teammates all waiting boundary side in full playing kit, having been told Australia’s declaration would come immediately after both he and Smith posted their respective milestones, Head attempted a similarly meek shot to that which undid Labuschagne.
And instead of netting him the single that would have brought his fifth Test century, it instead yielded an inside edge back on to off stump that meant Head became the 25th Australia batter – and the first since Shaun Marsh against India at the MCG in 2014 – to be dismissed for 99.
It was an ignominious end to an innings of otherwise flawless fluency that shone far brighter than the bowling he faced, but was always going to be an afterthought to Smith’s contribution.
With barely a mishit during the seven hours and batted and from the 311 deliveries he faced, Smith not only made good his prediction he was getting back to his batting best but ensured the statement was heavily underscored and appended with an exclamation point.
Although he would have to concede he’s faced more searching training sessions against teenage net bowlers than he was subjected to for much of today’s knock.
The fact West Indies skipper Brathwaite enlisted barely medium pacers Jason Holder (around 125kph) and Kyle Mayers (120kph) before finally unleashing his fastest bowlers Alzarri Joseph and Jayden Seales until much later in the opening session.
Mayers had indicated prior to play starting he was feeling sore after yesterday’s 11-over workload, and Seales must surely have been afflicted by some ailment given he had taken one of the two wickets to fall on day one during which he was his team’s most threatening bowler.
But even if the West Indies boasted an attack the calibre of those legendary 1980s outfits, it’s doubtful they could have curtailed Smith such was his technical mastery and mental strength.
Upon reaching his 29th Test ton shortly after the day’s first drinks break, Smith not only equalled the centuries tally of Don Bradman but did so in his 155th Test innings with only Bradman (79) and India’s Sachin Tendulkar (148) having reached the milestone in fewer knocks.
By that stage, another of the game’s all-time greats – former West Indies skipper Brian Lara – noted in commentary for Fox Cricket that his former team had no chance of claiming all 10 Australia wickets and their best hope was to limit scoring until a declaration salved their pain.
But that modest assignment proved beyond them as Smith joined with Labuschagne to flay 109 from the 28 overs until lunch, and then found even greater freedom in union with Head as they carved 166 from the next 30 overs up to tea.
In reaching his fourth double-hundred moments before Head’s dismissal brought the declaration, Smith joined Greg Chappell and Clarke with four scores of 200 or more for Australia.
Only Bradman (12) and Ponting (six) have posted more.
The ease with which Australia’s batters scored represents a troublesome trend against a once-feared bowling line-up which is scheduled to return here for a further two Tests next summer.
In their past five first innings against West Indies on home soil (including today’s efforts), Australia have piled on 2,428 runs for the loss of 20 wickets at an average of more than 485 per innings and in excess of 120 runs per scalp.
And that includes the first innings of the previous encounter at the SCG seven years ago when rain curtailed the game with Australia 2-176 in their first innings and seemingly on target for another hefty total.
The visitors’ plight was best encapsulated by the belated introduction of Joseph into the attack more than an hour into the day, by which time Labuschagne had progressed to 186 without being troubled by the diet of medium-pace he had been fed throughout the morning.
With his third delivery of his second over – having changed ends after his first – Joseph’s extra pace induced a tentative steer from Australia’s number three that flew barely over the outstretched fingertips of substitute fielder Shamarh Brooks stationed at fine gully.
Joseph’s clear irritation at his teammate’s less-than-urgent effort was doubtless compounded by the knowledge Brooks was on the field for Holder who – at around 30cm taller and one of world cricket’s best close catchers – would likely have plucked the rare offering.
A magnificent partnership between Jason Holder and Nicholas Pooran carried West Indies to a spectacular win in the second CG Insurance T20 International on Saturday night.
Holder made 52 on his home soil with a number of stunning shots – including a massive pull over square leg for six. Pooran saw the team to victory and ended on 59 not out – which included two huge sixes off spinner Ashton Turner – the first which cleared the boundary at the Malcolm Marshall End and the second which sailed over extra-cover and way beyond the boundary rope.
In the process the left-hander became the third fastest West Indian in history to reach 1,000 runs in ODI cricket in his 27th innings. The home side made 191-6 off 38 overs to win with 72 balls to spare and level the series 1 -1. This has set up a series-decider on Monday at the same venue.
The pair came together with the home side on 72-5 in the 15th over and added 93 in 20 overs to dominate the contest after Australia were bowled out for 189. The match ended in sensational fashion when Alzarri Joseph hoisted a flighted delivery from Turner over square leg for the winning boundary.
Earlier, Australia were in dire straits at 45-6 when left-arm spinner Akeal Hosein bowled a penetrative spell of 10-0-30-3. He triggered the slide when he had Moises Henriques caught at slip by Jason Holder, then cleaned bowled left-hander Alex Carey and Turner which perfectly pithed deliveries.
Joseph was also on the ball and had excellent figures of 8.1-0-39-3 including Wes Agar, who top scored with 41 before he was last man out.