The second Test in Adelaide began with new stories bubbling around David Warner, and ended its first day with the same old story of Australia batting West Indies out of the game. Changing red ball for pink and changing daytime match for night did not help a visiting side that also had to change four of its players through injury. The stumps score of 330-3 was built around unbeaten centuries for Marnus Labuschagne and Travis Head, following the Perth Test in which Labuschagne made two hundreds and Head made 99.
Attention was on Warner as he walked to the middle, and not just because Australia had won the toss and chosen to bat. The opener had just withdrawn his application to have his lifetime captaincy ban overturned, unhappy that the independent panel convened to hear the case wanted to do so publicly and to ask questions about the original offences stemming from the ball-tampering future of 2018, rather than focus on his behaviour since. On the morning of the match his manager claimed that senior Cricket Australia officials had told players to ball-tamper as early as 2016.
Warner has been known to release his emotions with the bat, and that may have been the case when he crashed three boundaries in four balls off Alzarri Joseph, before edging a wide ball to the wicketkeeper in the same over for a brisk 21. But a terrible run with injury ensured that West Indies had little chance to exploit the breakthrough, with Labuschagne and Usman Khawaja putting on a partnership of 95.
From the original West Indies Perth XI, aside from having number three bat Nkrumah Bonner concussed and replaced by Shamarh Brooks, the visitors lost attack leader Kemar Roach to a leg strain, exciting pace prospect Jayden Seales to a knee problem, and seaming all-rounder Kyle Mayers to a torn shoulder. Pace replacement Marquino Mindley, on debut, managed two overs before being sent for scans on a hamstring.
That left Joseph and Jason Holder to be supported by Anderson Phillip, who had played one previous Test, and debutant Devon Thomas, the reserve wicketkeeper who has only begun to dabble with bowling in the recent seasons of a long career. In 15 years of first-class cricket before this tour he had sent down all of 191 overs. In fact he bowled well after a couple of looseners, swinging the ball at just under 130kmh and trapping Usman Khawaja lbw for 62, breaking the second-wicket partnership of 95. Holder followed up in the next over by having Steve Smith miscue a return catch from a full ball for a duck. Again, at 131 for three, a chance beckoned. But that would have meant finding a way past Labuschagne.
Instead, Australia’s first drop prospered for the third innings in a row, and did so without any of the moments of good fortune that have characterised many of his innings. With West Indies trying a patience game, bowling lines outside off stump to deny his leg-side play, he showed that his patience was greater, taking 66 balls to score his first boundary, and then going on to score seven of them through the off side. The last of those was the one that raised his century, number 10 for Labuschagne in a career still only 30 matches old, with the chance to resume on 120 to make it another huge one.
Also resuming on 114 will be Head, who helped Labuschagne through his quieter moments by scoring in his own buccaneering way at the other end. As the partnership grew established, West Indies captain Kraigg Brathwaite was increasingly forced to use his own part-time spin alongside the less-than-frontline offerings of Roston Chase, and Head cheerfully battered both through cover. Facing the seamers, as ever the left-hander enjoyed carving width through point, and his hundred came with one of his best shots, driving Joseph down the ground. His Adelaide home crowd could not have been more receptive.
In the particular rhythms of a day-night Test, Australia will likely want to bat for two sessions on the second day before examining West Indies’ batting with a new ball as evening comes on. One consolation will be not having to face Patrick Cummins and Josh Hazlewood, both missing this Test on a precautionary basis, although Scott Boland and Michael Neser have given opponents little respite in their own brief appearances. In a match where so many next-rank players are getting opportunities, any can write a story for themselves.