Saving face

avoiding series whitewash only goal left for wi

West Indies find themselves in the familiar position of trying to stave off a series whitewash when they take on Australia in the fourth encounter of their five-match International One-Day Series in Sydney tonight.

Following their disappointing batting performances, best exemplified by the poor form of their most senior batsmen Ramnaresh Sarwan and Chris Gayle, the best West Indies can hope for are consolation victories in Sydney and Melbourne to make the score-line look a more respectable 3-2. But even that might be a tall order for the under-performing West Indies.†

Both teams left Canberra with injury concerns, West Indies sweating on the fitness of Chris Gayle, who picked up a side injury while fielding in the third ODI, and Australia unsure about George Bailey, who hurt his hamstring during Australia’s win. The fact that the series is decided means neither side is likely to be inclined to take a risk, which should mean at least one change for each team.

Team management will have to make a decision on Sarwan who has basically been a passenger in the side, contributing little or nothing in a line-up filled with all-rounders and depending on too-few specialist batsmen. There is a strong case for his axing in favour of Narsingh Deonarine or Johnson Charles, although the latter might play in any event if Gayle is unfit to play.

Gayle had scans today to assess his side injury and a West Indies team spokesman said the results showed there was no major damage. However, he remained stiff and sore and his availability will depend on a fitness test.

Dropping Sarwan, though, could well be an admission of the failure of the selectors in the first place who took the ill-advised decision to choose a woefully out-of-form Sarwan to tour a continent where he has always failed and against fast bowlers on quick, seaming tracks. In three games Sarwan has tallied 0, 0 and 12 and has looked worse than the scores suggest.

In Canberra Kieron Pollard reminded everyone watching of just what an exciting player he can be when he took four catches, including a couple of stunners, especially his leaping, one-handed take on the boundary that got rid of Glenn Maxwell. Unfortunately for West Indies, he hasn’t made the same kind of contributions with the batting during this series, with scores of 0, 1 and 9. He has done little bowling and has basically been playing as a specialist batsman. West Indies will need a greater contribution from him.

Captain Darren Sammy has been out of touch with the bat and his bowling has proved expensive against batsmen accustomed to pace, and equally accustomed to devouring his type of medium-pace trundlers. But he is captain and will play.

Today Sammy lamented the failure of his batsmen to exploit potential match winning moments in the second match in Perth and the third in Canberra. But he and the rest of his bowlers have conceded huge totals and will have to show improvement in this area as well.

Opener Kieran Powell has been a revelation on the tour for the West Indies and has looked their most accomplished batsman. He will however want to bat deeper into the innings and disappointed with a weak shot to part-time off-spinner Glen Maxwell at Canberra when set on 47 on a placid track.

The inclusion of Andre Russell has strengthened the West Indies batting but the dropping of Jason Holder has weakened the bowling. The tour management might consider the option of playing both at the expense of Sarwan.

Adam Voges has been added to Australia’s squad as cover for Bailey and is likely to play his first one-day international in two years. Voges has impressive Ryobi Cup form behind him: in his past two innings he has made 77 not out and 112 for Western Australia. Xavier Doherty is also likely to be included at the SCG, possibly at the expense of Mitchell Johnson.

The Sydney Cricket Ground should bring spin into the equation, although it was mainly swing that caused Australia’s batsmen problems at the venue in their ODI against Sri Lanka last month. The forecast for tonight [today] in Sydney is for a sunny day and a maximum temperature of 27C. †

It is 20 years since West Indies have beaten Australia in a one-day international at the ground.

Australia (possible) 1 Shane Watson, 2 Aaron Finch, 3 Phillip Hughes, 4 Michael Clarke (capt), 5 Adam Voges, 6 Matthew Wade (wk), 7 Glenn Maxwell, 8 James Faulkner, 9 Mitchell Starc, 10 Clint McKay, 11 Xavier Doherty.

West Indies (possible) 1 Kieron Powell, 2 Chris Gayle / Johnson Charles, 3 Ramnaresh Sarwan / Narsingh Deonarine, 4 Darren Bravo, 5 Dwayne Bravo, 6 Kieron Pollard, 7 Andre Russell, 8 Devon Thomas (wk), 9 Darren Sammy 10 Sunil Narine, 11 Kemar Roach. †(Cricinfo/WG)††

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