(Updates at tea)
By Ian Ransom
MELBOURNE Dec 26 Opening batsman Joe Burns repaid the Australian selectors’ faith with a composed half-century as the hosts pushed to 193-1 at tea on the opening day of the second test against West Indies on Saturday.
Burns was widely tipped to make way for the returning Usman Khawaja but it was middle order batter Shaun Marsh making way for the stylish left-hander who also cashed in with a half-century on a sunny, breezy afternoon at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
Burns was on 83, with Khawaja on 84 at the break, the Queensland pair having put on an unbroken stand of 164.
Australia, who won the opener emphatically in Hobart, can seal the three-match series with a game in hand and took a big stride toward that goal after being sent in to bat by West Indies captain Jason Holder.
Rain delayed the start by an hour and Holder had little hesitation in choosing to attack on a green-tinged pitch.
The clouds quickly made way for bright sunshine, however, and the Australian batsmen were rarely troubled after the early loss of opener David Warner, who was caught slogging for a quickfire 23.
Khawaja, who missed Australia’s last two tests with a hamstring strain, was scratchy early and nicked a full-blooded drive off paceman Jerome Taylor in the third over after lunch but the half-chance was put down in the gully.
The Queensland captain duly made the West Indies pay and brought up his 50 by cutting Kemar Roach to the fence.
Burns, retained despite a modest run of scores since a century in the series-opener against New Zealand, earlier raised his 50 with a drive for three off debutant paceman Carlos Brathwaite.
Pummelled by Australia’s batsmen in Hobart, the West Indies attack was again expensive, with Roach plundered for over five runs an over and Taylor well over four.
Warner earlier smashed fours from his first three balls off Roach then two more off Taylor to race to 23 off eight deliveries.
Taylor hit back in his third over, however, firing in a short ball to force a miscued pull which Marlon Samuels did his best to drop at cover before clinching it on the third grab.
Lambasted for their abysmal fielding in Hobart, the West Indies were more focused at the MCG but again ragged at times, with players fumbling regularly and throwing wildly back to the stumps.
West Indies went in with one change, with Brathwaite coming for the injured Shannon Gabriel.
Khawaja’s selection was Australia’s only change from the team that thrashed the tourists by an innings and 212 runs at Bellerive Oval. (Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)