West Indies have hit their stride in the last few days to give Australia some harsh lessons. They had a helping hand in the opening game as the visitors’ batting lost the plot, but the following matches have been superb all-round displays where the batting line-up has started to click in a manner they hadn’t done consistently of late.
They are only in the middle of this extensive run of T20Is – another five-match series against Pakistan follows the Australia tour – so there is more time to hone plans ahead of the T20 World Cup. Their form during the intervening years since winning the title in 2016 has been underwhelming, but perhaps the sight of the tournament on the horizon has sharpened the focus.
In truth, though, this is not an especially strong Australia side. For all the talk of the depth that was available to cover for the long list of absentees it has so far been rather brutally exposed. It is now four T20I series defeats in a row – following England, India and New Zealand – having strung together a run of success before the pandemic struck.
The middle order remains a muddle and while some of those issues may solve themselves when everyone is available no one has really made a claim to put pressure on those missing. The way they were unable to accelerate in the third game was a huge credit to the skills of the West Indies bowlers with Moises Henriques making an interesting point about how they are very good at operating defensively.
“Our bowlers are slightly different style to theirs, there’s definitely things we can learn,” he said. “Guys like Mitch and Josh have these fantastic attributes and assets you don’t want to waste all the time on being defensive either. It’s a bit of a catch-22. As a batting group it’s finding a way to score off that defensive bowling. At the end I wasn’t able to capitalise and score quickly enough like I should have been the last few overs, and didn’t have the answers I should have to that style of bowling.”
(last five completed matches)
West Indies WWWLW
In the spotlight
Nicholas Pooran is having an excellent series as the stand-in captain. He has marshaled the team very well in the field – there is plenty of senior advice if he needs it – with a missed stumping off Henriques in the previous game his only error. With the bat he finished the third game in style with 32 off 27 balls and afterwards was endorsed as a potential long-term captain for West Indies by coach Phil Simmons when the time comes.
Matthew Wade looks in as good form as any of the Australia top order, but while there is a fine line in his role at the top of the order he ideally needs to kick on outside of the powerplay. Since his back-to-back fifties against India last year, he has made 12, 24, 5, 14, 44, 33, 0 and 23 in T20Is. Somebody in the top three or four needs to progress into the 70s or 80s and it feels as though Wade is leaving runs out there.
Shimron Hetmyer and Obed McCoy have picked up minor injuries, CWI confirmed in a release on the morning of the match, local time, to be replaced by left-arm spinner Akeal Hosein and offspinner Kevin Sinclair. With Fidel Edwards also sidelined, it could be a chance for Oshane Thomas. If Evin Lewis is fit again he could have a chance of replacing Andre Fletcher. They could also pick an extra spinner in Sinclair as both Allen and Walsh turn the ball away from right-handers, and Australia have two left-hand batters in the top seven.
West Indies (possible) 1 Lendl Simmons, 2 Andre Fletcher/Evin Lewis, 3 Chris Gayle, 4 Nicholas Pooran (capt & wk), 5 Dwayne Bravo, 6 Andre Russell, 7 Fabian Allen, 8 Hayden Walsh Jr, 9 Oshane Thomas, 10 Sheldon Cottrell, 11 Kevin Sinclair
Ben McDermott and Ashton Agar missed the third game with minor injuries. A decision on their availability will be taken shortly before the match. With the series gone there could be a chance to look at some of the other bowling options.
Australia (possible) 1 Aaron Finch, 2 Matthew Wade (wk), 3 Mitchell Marsh, 4 Alex Carey, 5 Moises Henrqiues, 6 Ashton Turner, 7 Dan Christian, 8 Mitchell Starc, 9 Riley Meredith, 10 Adam Zampa, 11 Josh Hazlewood
Pitch and conditions
With Australia having found the going so tough then West Indies wrapping up the chase with five overs to spare it’s difficult to judge what a par score would be but it feels around 170. Wind-assisted sixes have been a big part of the series, although Chris Gayle was launching some of his against the breeze the other night.
Stats and trivia
This home season, in matches against Sri Lanka, South Africa and Australia, West Indies have hit 112 sixes to date in 11 games. In this series they are leading Australia 30-11.
The last time West Indies won a bilateral series in any format against Australia (of more than one match) was 1995.
Mitchell Starc’s 1 for 15 off four overs in the third game was his most economical full spell in T20Is
“He’s allowed to say what he has to say and when he speaks all of us listen because there’s no greater T20 player that’s passed through the world.”
Phil Simmons on Chris Gayle behind the scenes
“For 95% of that first game we were probably in charge and playing some really good cricket. Then the collapse happened and the momentum swung and West Indies have been playing brilliant cricket ever since, it’s been hard to slow them down.”