PERTH – The extras were not donned in maroon but the 17 runs they provided was the best scoring effort on a day that West Indians on and off the WACA ground would rather forget.
First captain Darren Sammy decided to present Australian captain Michael Clarke with a Christmas gift 37 days late by batting on a grassy pitch renowned for its pacy, seaming conditions, and against an attack top-heavy with pacers and seamers.
Clarke later said he was surprised [and perhaps inwardly overjoyed], with Sammy’s decision, and added he would have bowled first had he won the toss. What followed was an almost inevitable capitulation with left-arm fast bowler and Man-of-the-Match Mitchell Starc swinging the ball at pace to decimate the West Indies for an abject 70 all out in the 24th over. At one stage Starc had four wickets for one run in seven balls as the Windies initially wobbled to 19 for 5.
The West Indies effort was their worst batting in One-Day Internationals against Australia. In a twinkling of eye the match was over but none in the boisterous crowd witnessing West Indies’ evening of shame would have complained as Australia duly stormed to 71 for 1 to win with 40 overs still available. ††
Ever the tactical opportunist, Clarke promoted the pugnacious Glenn Maxwell to open, and his supercharged half-century ensured the target was gobbled up inside 10 overs. Maxwell crashed 18 from Kemar Roach’s first over, and may find himself opening again after such a display. In all, only 33.1 overs were required to complete the match.
Starc finished with 5 for 20, and was given splendid support by Clint McKay and James Faulkner. The two new balls ensured there was movement through the air and off the pitch for the entirety of the West Indies innings, as a succession of batsmen were either bowled or offered catching practice to a well-stocked slips cordon.
Chris Gayle and Kieran Powell were soon pushing hopefully at deliveries that seamed and swung away from them at pace, though it was not until the fifth over that a wicket fell. Gayle’s recent ODI scores have been underwhelming, but it took a fine ball from McKay to seam across him and take the shoulder of the bat for a catch in the slips cordon.
At the other end Starc was swerving the ball late and with tremendous control, and the ball after Powell drove him to the cover fence began a sequence of destruction that would plainly show that there are few bowlers more dangerous than the fast left-armer moving the ball through the air. Powell pushed tentatively at a ball slightly shorter than the one he had struck to the fence and offered a catch to Clarke at slip.
Ramnaresh Sarwan, in his first international since 2011, was late and crooked on a ball that hooped back into him to spread-eagle the stumps. He has been out of international cricket for almost two years, could not purchase a run in the just concluded Caribbean Twenty20 Tournament, has never done well in Australia, and on such a wicket, his presence at number 3 was akin to cricketing hara-kiri.
Noting the swing on offer, Clarke brought Phillip Hughes in to short leg, and Dwayne Bravo obliged by squeezing a catch to the man just posted. Kieron Pollard’s first ball was millimetres away from finding him lbw, and his second arrived too soon for a hesitant push that served only to deflect the ball onto leg stump.
At 5 for 19, the script for the innings had been largely written, and the remainder could only add nuisance runs as the ball continued to zip about. Faulkner claimed a pair of wickets on debut with a disciplined line, while McKay followed up his earlier incision by dismissing Sammy, who offered only token resistance.
West Indies’ plight was best epitomised by Sunil Narine, who groped haplessly at the first five balls of a McKay over before edging the final one into Matthew Wade’s gloves. Starc was brought back by Clarke to claim the final wicket, another inswinger plucking out Jason Holder’s leg stump.
Maxwell’s (51 in 35 balls) promotion showed Australia were keen on a quick finish, and his domineering approach worked brilliantly in a scenario where instinct and freedom were rewarded over thoughtful consideration. Some of his shots were bizarre, but most were well struck, leaving Aaron Finch and Usman Khawaja very much in his wake.
The West Indies only bright spark in the game was debutant Holder who had Finch caught by wicketkeeper Devon Thomas for 10. He finished with one for 18 in 4.3 overs and got significant bounce at lively pace. But in the end it will be West Indies’ pathetic batting, Starc’s assault, Maxwell’s onslaught and Sammy’s poor judgement that will be remembered from the WACA. (Cricinfo/WG)††