48 hours after defending NBA champions Golden State Warriors choked in surrendering their title to come-from-behind winners Cleveland Cavaliers, the West Indies men’s cricket team also cramped up, bowling badly as Australia clawed their way to victory in what was a virtual Tri-Nations ODI semifinal clash in Bridgetown, Barbados last night.
Golden State Warriors were looking a cinch to repeat as NBA champions with a 3-one lead in the best-of-seven-finals but they failed to handle the Cavaliers pressure and lost the last three games of the series and the championship.
West Indies backed by their home crowd at Kensington Oval scored 282 for 8 in their 50-over innings and looked good for the upset win over the world ODI champions who needed 62 runs from 50 balls when their fourth wicket went in the day-night encounter.
But the Aussies came out of the pressure situation with flying colours as the West Indies went ragged in bowling, fielding and captaincy to lose by six wickets and with 8 balls to spare.
Glen Maxwell with 46 not out off 26 balls with five fours and two sixes hurt West Indies who now have to beat South Africa in their last preliminary round match on Friday and get a bonus point as well to have to meet Australia in Sunday’s final in Barbados.
Ona fine day in Bridgetown, West Indies replaced Jerome Taylor with Gabriel, while Australia named the same XI chosen for the washed-out encounter with South Africa. This meant that Aussies again ignored the spin of Adam Zampa and Nathan Lyon, while the hosts went in with the dual spin of Narine and Sulieman Benn.
Starc had missed the previous encounter with the West Indies, and he immediately found pace and bounce to his liking. It was too much for Johnson Charles, who edged a fast, full delivery in the very first over, and Andre Fletcher fared little better as he groped at a succession of balls whirring across him.
Hazlewood also generated plenty of lift, and it was with one such delivery that ended a promising Darren Bravo innings as Smith held a one-handed as he dived from a wide first slip. Fletcher was being battered verbally as well as technically by Starc, and it wasn’t long before he was taken off the shoulder of the bat at backward point.
Three wickets down with the ball still new, West Indies were in a most precarious position when Ramdin joined Samuels. Initially their response was obstinate defence, absorbing the bounce and speed of Starc and Hazlewood, then the early forays of James Faulkner, Scott Boland and Mitchell Marsh.
Nearly seven overs passed without a boundary, and it was 64 for 3 in the 20th over when Samuels decided Boland and Marsh had to go. In the space of two overs he clattered 27 runs from the support seamers, tilting momentum back towards the west Indies for the first time all innings.
Batting conditions had eased considerably, and Smith had no quality spin-bowling option to change things up. He resorted to the part-timers of Aaron Finch before trying Maxwell, and neither man could procure a wicket. Samuels and Ramdin carried on with increasing authority, setting up the ideal platform for West Indies’ brute force further down the order.
Ultimately Ramdin would fall short of a century, bowled having a swing at Starc, but critically Smith had been forced to use up his striker bowler’s overs well before the end of the innings. Pollard arrived in ideal circumstances, but after a Maxwell attempt to catch him off Hazlewood became six when the fielder’s foot slipped onto the midwicket rope, he was unable to repeat the trick against Boland.
Australian frustration at the match situation was borne out in numerous verbal stoushes with Pollard and Samuels in particular – on the fringe of elimination, it was the most animated they had been all tournament. The niggle was evidence of a team trying to assert themselves, but also of the heightened stakes in the match. Smith, Marsh and Maxwell would rise suitably to the occasion. West Indies are left needing to beat South Africa to qualify for the decider.