Cowan and Ponting steer Australia to 300-plus lead
Australia 328 and 200 for 6 (Ponting 57, Cowan 55) lead West Indies 218 (Chanderpaul 68, Lyon 4-69) by 310 runs
West Indies will need to complete their highest successful chase since they rewrote the record books in Antigua nine years ago if they are to level the series against Australia. Ed Cowan and Ricky Ponting both scored half-centuries on the third day in Dominica as the Australians built a lead of 310 runs at stumps, and with four wickets still in hand there was no immediate end in sight for the Australian second innings.
Viewed in isolation, it wasn't a bad day for West Indies: their final two pairs frustrated Australia for an hour and a half in the morning and their bowlers picked up wickets early in the Australian innings and then gained some momentum late in the day. But the hosts were left to rue their miserable second day, when Matthew Wade's century gave Australia control of the match, and at stumps on day three Australia had moved on to 200 for 6 with Michael Hussey on 17 and Ryan Harris on 4.
Not since their world-record chase of 418 against Steve Waugh's Australian side in 2003 have West Indies chased down this big a target to win a Test. On that occasion, centuries to Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Ramnaresh Sarwan set up the West Indian triumph, and the way their batting has spluttered in this series they will need something similarly special from Chanderpaul this time around.
First, they must get through the rest of the Australian batting line-up. The innings started promisingly for West Indies, whose dismissal half an hour before lunch gave Australia an awkward four-over patch to face before the break. David Warner didn't make it to safety, caught at slip off Kemar Roach for 11, and when Shane Watson was taken at leg slip for 5 off Shane Shillingford's bowling shortly after the resumption Australia were in trouble.
But Cowan and Ponting, two men who had endured a lean series, came together in a calm and controlled 87-run partnership that halted the West Indian momentum. Cowan was a little more attacking than he has been so far on the tour, but was still in no great hurry, and Ponting survived a couple of nervous moments to work his way into the innings.
Ponting was lucky not to be run out shortly before tea when Cowan called him for a single and then turned him back, and had the fielder at mid-on thrown down the stumps Ponting was gone. He also gave a tough chance on 27 when he pushed a Narsingh Deonarine offbreak past Adrian Barath at short leg, and although it was difficult it was the kind of opportunity West Indies needed to take.
Cowan's half-century, his first since the Perth Test against India, arrived from his 107th delivery with a cut for four off Deonarine, but on 55 he fell trying another cut against the same bowler when Darren Sammy at slip showed magnificent reflexes to snare a tough catch. Ponting fell for 57 in unusual circumstances - he ducked a Kemar Roach bouncer but left his bat up and unwittingly lobbed a catch to slip.
That was the start of an encouraging period for West Indies as they also removed Michael Clarke, who top-edged Shane Shillingford and was caught at short leg for 25. And an important boost for the hosts came just before stumps when Deonarine had Wade lbw for 4, and despite the umpire's decision being upheld on review - the ball struck the batsman's foot on the full and was going on to clip leg stump - Wade appeared livid with the decision as he walked off the field.
The wickets meant West Indies finished the day on a positive, and they had started that way as well. The final two West Indies pairs survived for an hour and a half and Shivnarine Chanderpaul didn't alter his batting style despite having to work with the tail-enders, striking only three boundaries in his 68 from 164 balls.
He was the last man out, lbw to a straight ball from Mitchell Starc, who finished with 2 for 29, and Australia had finally ended a 32-run partnership between Chanderpaul and Roach (9 not out). West Indies added 53 to their overnight total for the loss of their last two wickets as the Australians struggled to find a way to terminate the innings.
Ravi Rampaul fell after 21 runs had been added in the morning, when he advanced to Nathan Lyon and tried to clear midwicket but succeeded only in lobbing a catch to point off a leading edge. Lyon ended up with 4 for 69 and moved into position as Australia's leading wicket taker of the series so far.
And on a pitch offering more turn than most people expected at the start of the game, Lyon will also be an important man in the fourth innings. How many runs he will have to defend remains to be seen.