Australia moves to Final – Tri Series (West Indies)
Half-centuries from Steve Smith and Mitchell Marsh propelled Australia into the final of the triangular series with a six-wicket victory over the West Indies on Tuesday (June 21) evening at the Kensington Oval, leaving the host nation and South Africa battling for the other spot in the final league tie on Friday.
Australia, the defending World Cup champion, chased down its target of 283 with eight balls to spare, Glenn Maxwell backing up Smith (78) and Marsh (79 not out) with a clinical finisher’s knock of 46 not out of just 26 deliveries that contained five fours and two sixes.
Marlon Samuels, the man of the match for his innings of 125, his 10th One-Day International hundred, and Denesh Ramdin (91) were the backbone of the West Indies innings of 282 for 7 with their fourth-wicket alliance of 192.
Samuels became the 10th West Indian to score 5000 runs in this format and his ODI aggregate in the last three years now stands at 1499 runs from 37 matches with a highest of 133 not out and an average of 49.96.
Australia won the toss and chose to field after selecting an all-pace attack, considering the overcast conditions and the fact that the pitch was covered for much of the previous 48 hours following the abandoned game on Sunday between Australia and South Africa.
This decision seemed apt initially as the West Indies lost three wickets in the opening 10 overs.
Johnson Charles and Andre Fletcher, the opening pair, continued its inconsistent tournament. Off the fourth ball of the game, Charles edged Mitchell Starc to Smith at second slip. Darren Bravo hit three classy boundaries before presenting Smith with another catch, this time off Josh Hazlewood.
Fletcher fended a rising delivery outside off-stump to Marsh at gully, leaving the West Indies precariously placed at 35 for 3 in the ninth over.
The initial 12 overs of the Samuels- Ramdin fourth-wicket partnership only mustered 35 runs. However, as the afternoon sun started to come out in all its glory, flattening the pitch, their association began to take charge of proceedings and Australia began to miss not having one of their spinners, Nathan Lyon or Adam Zampa.
Samuels signalled the change in intent in the 20th over when he hit Scott Boland for a glorious straight six and a four. In the following over, he brought up his fifty after striking Marsh for four off-side boundaries.
In the 28th over with the score of 132 for 3, Samuels (64) was given at a life when Matthew Wade, the wicketkeeper, dropped him off Starc’s bowling.
Ramdin, who has been under pressure for lack of consistent runs, brought up his first half-century for the year (and eighth overall in ODIs) since January’s Sydney Test against the same opponent.
As Samuels retreated into an anchor role, Ramdin took up the attacking impetus which was highlighted by him blasting Starc for two straight sixes into the Worrell, Weeks and Walcott Stand in the 40th over, with the score on 214 for 3. Along with way, he also became the first West Indies wicketkeeper to score 2000 ODI runs.
Despite Samuels being there and the threat of Kieron Pollard and Carlos Brathwaite looming, Australia limited the host to 78 runs in the final 10 overs to keep the score under 300.
When Australia began its chase, it raced the 35 in the first five overs before losing Aaron Finch and Usman Khawaja, the openers, in consecutive overs.
Finch lobbed a catch to Samuels at mid-on as a Brathwaite delivery lifted on him, while Khawaja edged Shannon Gabriel, who regularly touched 150 kmph, to Ramdin.
But Smith played a key anchor role, firstly with George Bailey and then during the crucial 122-run fourth-wicket partnership with Marsh before he was run out.
However, West Indies’ efforts to restrict Australia were curtailed by Jason Holder, the skipper, being unable to bowl after he came off the field with hamstring issues.
Maxwell, who was struggling for form in the early games in this series and was dropped for Travis Head, repaid the selectors’ faith and Marsh acknowledged the effort of his team-mate.
“I just told him (Maxwell) when he came out, give yourself a few balls and go for it mate,” said Marsh. “But yeah, I was literally speechless watching an innings like that from the other end. Obviously he has had a few little doubts and hasn’t been in the greatest of form. An innings like that shows why he on his best days is one of the first names on our team, because he can win us games in a few overs.”
With the host faced with a must-win situation to get into the final, Phil Simmons felt that for the team to be in that position is very positive.
“It’s been great for me, the work the guys have put in during the last five to six weeks has been excellent,” said Simmons, the West Indian coach.
He continued: “So for us to be in a competition with the No. 1 and No, 3-ranked ODI teams and still be in with a chance of qualifying for the final going into our last game is what we spoke about before the tournament.
“We need to make sure we are winning games against these top teams in order to move up the table. A few players have to still come to the party but almost everyone has put their hand up so far this series and it’s great to see.”