The grass on the pitch at Sabina Park was not excessive, but Denesh Ramdin chose to bowl, hoping his fast bowlers would hurt Australia before the assistance dried up. Only Jerome Taylor did, though, swinging the ball both ways at 90mph during an accurate first spell in which he dismissed Australia’s openers and conceded no runs in five overs. The other West Indian bowlers created no pressure and allowed Michael Clarke and Steven Smith to first repair the innings and then give it momentum during a brisk 75-run stand.
The Test began so well for West Indies. Taylor got the third delivery of the match to explode from a length, David Warner fended as it seamed away from him, the sharp bounce taking the outside edge and lobbing to third slip. In the fifth over, after moving a couple of deliveries away from Shaun Marsh, Taylor nipped one in from round the wicket and hit the left-hander’s pads as he fell across his crease. Australia were 16 for 2, and Taylor had 25 wickets at 12.92 at Sabina Park, the second best bowling average at this venue for a bowler with more than ten wickets.
Taylor troubled the right-hand batsmen too, beating Smith and Clarke with perfectly pitched outswingers and then hurrying them into defence with skiddy deliveries that zipped in. He finished his first spell with figures of 5-5-0-2, only the third bowler in the last 14 years to begin a Test with five successive maidens. He returned to bowl the last over before lunch and ended the session without conceding a run.
While Taylor bogged Australia down, however, Kemar Roach was too short and too wide too often. He had given Marsh room to play several drives through cover and a half-volley on Smith’s pads allowed the batsman his first runs off his 11th delivery. Roach’s costliest error came after he changed ends and had Clarke caught and bowled in the first over of his second spell. Clarke was walking off for 3 when replays showed Roach had over-stepped; Australia would have been 22 for 3.
Clarke cut free soon after, driving and pulling Jason Holder for four, before lofting Roach for six and steering him to the third man boundary. Ramdin brought on Veerasammy Permaul at the start of the second hour and the left-arm spinner was challenged by two nimble-footed batsmen. Smith stepped out and lofted Permaul for four over long-off in his first over; Clarke did the same but for six over long-on in his second. Later on, Smith stepped out to flick, then stayed back to cut, and stepped out to flick again for three boundaries in an over.
A session that had begun with such promise ended poorly for West Indies. They had also been hampered by illness and injury and were forced to replace Marlon Samuels, Shannon Gabriel and Devendra Bishoo with Rajendra Chandrika, Kemar Roach and Veerasammy Permaul. Two of those replacements had fared poorly so far.