A collective brilliant effort from pace quartet of Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Cameron Green followed by the crucial contributions of Aaron Finch (58 runs) and Matthew Wade (39 not out) guided Australia to a three-wicket win over the West Indies in the first T20I of the two-match series, here on Wednesday.
Captain Finch’s surprise demotion down the order paid off as the home team chased down the target of 146 with just a ball to spare.
Chasing a modest target, Australia didn’t have a smooth sailing. They lost the wickets of David Warner, Green, Mitchell Marsh, Glenn Maxwell and Tim David were dismissed inside the first eight overs of the innings.
In the second over, Warner was dismissed by Cottrell. In the same over, he also induced Marsh to edge one behind. Green and Finch then calmed down the nerves in the Australian camp by clubbing Jason Holder for two boundaries and a six.
However, Joseph, who bowled with a fair amount of pace, cleaned up Green. Yannic Cariah, making his T20I debut, and Holder chipped in too by taking the scalps of Maxwell and David.
At 58 for 5, Australia had found themselves in a spot of bother. But, Wade and Finch propped up the innings with a stand of 69. Eventually, West Indies’ pace spearhead Alzarri Joseph dismissed Finch, with the opener lofting one to the fielder stationed at long-on.
At the fall of Finch’s wicket, Australia needed only 19 more runs in 17 balls but the pendulum continued to swing one way and then the other. Joseph mixed up his lengths – full and short – and gave away only four runs in the 18th over. Odean Smith followed it up by bowling an excellent penultimate over, which cost only four runs for the visitors. Odean Smith also castled Cummins by hitting the deck hard and zooming it on the stumps.
The West Indies, who had 10 runs to defend in the last over, bowled by Sheldon Cottrell. The visitors could have even pulled off a memorable win but Raymon Reifer dropped an easy catch at deep cover to give Matthew Wade a reprieve while Kyle Mayers also grassed a chance as Starc had a narrow escape.
Ultimately, Starc picked up a double off the fifth ball to steer the side past West Indies’ score. For the tourists, Joseph was the best bowler on show and bagged 2 for 17 from his quota of four overs.
Earlier, the Windies got off to a flyer thanks to Kyle Mayers (39 off 36) despite Josh Hazlewood (3-35) striking twice in the powerplay. However, the towering Aussie pace quartet put the squeeze on as they hit a bail-high length with precision, while spinners Adam Zampa and Glenn Maxwell only allowed 29 from their combined six overs.
The West Indies’ innings featured a series of jaw-dropping blows – Mayers’ incredible back-foot punch over cover for six off Cameron Green the highlight – but went nine overs without a boundary through the middle overs.
There was a further setback when skipper Nicholas Pooran was given lbw on review to Mitchell Starc (2-40) on a ball that he had hit with his bat but, in the television umpire’s estimation, only after it had struck his boot. Ball-tracking determined that it would have cannoned into leg-stump which took Starc, who had returned to his bowling mark to continue his over to Pooran, by surprise and left the Windies captain fuming.
The review system was more favourable to the visitors in the penultimate over when Odean Smith was given a life after the Hazlewood bouncer he had edged behind was deemed to have been the Australian’s second delivery over shoulder height in the over, and thus a no-ball. It allowed Smith to continue a needed cameo of 27 off 17 balls that ensured the Windies reached a competitive 145-9 in 20 overs.