On the opening day of the first Test in Perth, the home team had a 293-2 lead thanks to Queenslander’s undefeated 154.
The calm rhythms of Test cricket resumed after all the chaos of short-form cricket. It also went back to Perth after a forced absence caused by the epidemic since 2019. For the first time in a Test game, Australia’s players kneeled in protest against racism in support of the West Indies squad. After winning the toss and deciding to bat, Australia put in some real effort against some quality bowling to reach 293 for 2 at the close of play, with Steve Smith on 59 and Marnus Labuschagne notching his eighth Test century before continuing on to 154.
Following Justin Langer’s week of criticising his former players before attempting to retract his statements, the day also started with Justin Langer in the spotlight. “Reality and perception. Newspapers are frequently sold on perception, according to Langer, who a few days prior had his column and full-length photo featured on the back of the West Australian. Before the game, he greeted the players on the field in his new role as a television analyst with hugs and grins. The players have just as much incentive to be kind as the coach does. Langer’s workplace kindly edited the goodwill into a little film clip.
The 10,929-person attendance on that specific day will be used as evidence of alleged public dissatisfaction with Test cricket in general or with this Australian squad in particular in Perth. In reality, it was greater than the 10,091 spectators who arrived on a Saturday to begin the 1997 Test against the West Indies and not too far behind the 13,037 in 2009, the 15,721 in 1993, or the 16.984 in 2000. Smaller audiences appear dreadful at the new stadium compared to how they did in the considerably smaller WACA venue due to its enormous size.
This West Indies team is probably better than those from 2000 or 2009, but not as excellent as those from the 1990s. With Jason Holder, Kemar Roach, Alzarri Joseph, and Jayden Seales as its four fast bowlers, Kyle Mayers as its top-order medium pacer, and Roston Chase as its batting spinner, the team had a well-rounded lineup. Through the whole first session, those bowlers were quick, precise, and aggressive.
Having patience was the sole virtue for a very long time. Before landing a pull shot from Joseph and pursuing width in a fit of confidence, David Warner was able to complete four over. With a bull howl of rage, the heavy bottom edge fell against his stumps. By noon, though, Usman Khawaja and Marnus Labuschagne had only managed to score 39 runs off the seam bowlers. Asphyxiation from Mayers and a five-over, one-run stint from Holder supported the early excellence of Roach and Seales. Only 23 runs from the spinner, including a Khawaja six over far-on, helped relieve the strain, leaving the score at 72 for 1 at the lengthy break.
After lunch, Joseph invited Seales over, where he invented an uppercut pull shot before nicking through slip for two fours. Joseph had previously made Labuschagne bounce with short stuff. But as the ball and bowlers wore down, the chore got simpler, and the effort paid off. Khawaja advanced to 65 until a brilliant delivery from Mayers curved away to take Khawaja’s edge and reunited the venerable duo of Labuschagne and Smith, who both offered a more composed and subdued presence to the middle.
After that, West Indies’ luck was limited to a few missed opportunities to catch; Australia reached tea at 162 for two at tea and then amassed 131 runs in the lengthy final session. The batting partnership were increasingly at ease with the short ball despite the occasional use of bouncer techniques with catchers out on the hook. The eighth century stand between Smith and Labuschagne was reduced to 142 at stumps, and West Indies hopes now depend on an early surge on the second morning with a ball that is 10 overs old.