Bridgetown: Tail-ender Ryan Harris and fast bowler Ben Hilfenhaus helped Australia force back into the opening Test against the West Indies on day four on Tuesday at Kensington Oval.
Harris hit a career-best, unbeaten 68 to rally Australia to 406 for 9 declared in response to the West Indies' first innings total of 449 for 9 declared. The West Indies at stumps limped to 71 for 5, ahead by 114 runs with five wickets in hand heading into the final day. Australia, overnight 248 for 5, had slipped to 250 for 7 after the West Indies struck early with the second new ball.
But the 32-year-old Harris led a lower order rally as the last three wickets added 116 runs to shift the momentum and allow skipper Michael Clarke to make a bold declaration. Hlifenhaus contributed a forthright 24 while last man Nathan Lyon struck 40 not out in an undefeated 10th-wicket stand of 77. Hilfenhaus returned to grab 3 for 17 as the hosts tumbled to 17 for 4.
The West Indies forged a mini-recovery in the final session through Darren Bravo, who hit 32, and Narsingh Deonarine, with an unbeaten 20. But Bravo lost his wicket just before the close to give Australia a slight edge heading into Wednesday's final day. Carlton Baugh finished the day on 2 not out. Earlier, it was all West Indies as Kemar Roach and Fidel Edwards made quick inroads.
Left-hander Michael Hussey had added just one to his overnight 47 when he drove at Roach and edged to Baugh, who pouched a low catch to his left. One run later, Fidel Edwards snared Peter Siddle for a duck, the batsman taking his eyes off a bouncer and fending to gully for Kirk Edwards to dive forward to grasp a good catch.
The West Indies sensed a big lead at 250 for 7 but Harris played with the fluency of a top order batsman. He dominated a stand of 35 with wicketkeeper Matthew Wade, who contributed 28. Wade, in his debut Test, eventually fell to Fidel Edwards at 285 for 8, edging to Darren Bravo at second slip. But No. 9 Harris found another sound ally in Hilfenhaus and added a further 44 with his new ball mate. Hilfenhaus survived a difficult chance off the inside edge to Baugh when on 12, but slammed five fours in 24 off 29 balls.
Roach returned to uproot his middle stump as he tried an ambitious pull at 329 for 9. But the West Indies could not finish off the innings before lunch as Harris and Lyon established their partnership. Harris notched his maiden Test fifty off 76 deliveries, while Lyon also played some authentic strokes in registering his Test best.
Lyon, the South Australia offspinner, struck six fours off 90 deliveries in 103 minutes. Australia blasted away three wickets in a dramatic 20 minutes before tea as Hilfenhaus dominated. Adrian Barath (2) had his leg stump uprooted by an outswinger of full length and, two balls later, Kraigg Brathwaite (0) chased a wide ball and edged to Wade.
Kirk Edwards (1) survived a low catch to second slip off Shane Watson but did not last much longer. The Barbadian shuffled across his stumps and was given out lbw by umpire Ian Gould, a decision confirmed even though Edwards chose to review the verdict. Harris returned in the final session to claim the prized scalp of first innings centurion Shivnarine Chanderpaul, and Australia were rampant at 17 for 4.
But Bravo and Deonarine gradually lifted the gloom around Kensington with a gritty fifth-wicket stand of 50. Bravo was the more expansive, striking three fours, while Deonarine went without a boundary. But with a quarter of an hour remaining, Siddle made a telling strike, inducing an edge from Bravo through to Wade. Bravo's defiance lasted 78 balls and 145 minutes. Deonarine carried on until the close, his knock occupying 94 balls and two and a quarter hours.