The golden T20 era of West Indies came to a doleful end as the Kieron Pollard-side were crushed by Australia in Abu Dhabi. The Windies batted first and put up a decent 157 on the board, but the total was chased down in just 16.2 overs by Australia, who did a world of good to their chances of making it to the semis. Thanks to the crushing win, Australia now essentially have a foot in the semi-finals with a NRR of +1.216. The only way they will crash out is if the Proteas maul table-toppers England in the evening game at Sharjah.
Australia strike back after weathering early Windies storm
For a while, just a little while, it looked like today could be one of those days. One of those days where the Windies batters go berserk, one of those days where you fear for the opposition bowlers.
In just the second over, Evin Lewis smashed Josh Hazlewood for a hat-trick of fours, post which Chris Gayle launched a handsome six over mid-wicket. On the first ball of the very next over, Gayle pummeled Cummins for a six down the ground, and the Windies were 30/0 in just 13 balls.
It looked like the Windies were going to take all their anger and frustration out on Australia.
But Cummins, immediately after getting hit for that six, clean-bowled the Universe Boss, after which the game turned on its head. Gayle perished for 15 after chopping one onto his stumps, and that not only killed the Windies’ momentum, but also brought about a mini-collapse.
Finch brought Hazlewood back into the attack and the metronomic right-armer repaid the captain’s faith by striking not once, but twice. He first sent Pooran back to the pavilion by banging one into the wicket, and then dismissed Roston Chase clean bowled after seaming one back in.
Lewis and Hetmyer then built a nice little valiant 35-run stand, but Adam Zampa got the better of Lewis to leave Windies at 74/4 at the halfway stage.
Much to Australia’s delight, it was not one of those days.
Pollard, Russell take West Indies to 157
West Indies were going nowhere around the 12-over mark, and the dismissal of a set Shimron Hetmyer in over number 13 made it certain that they were going to end up with a below-par total. But late onslaughts from the bat of Pollard and Russell took the side to a par total.
Pollard was dropped in the 12th over by Zampa, when he was on 3, and he made sure to make Australia pay for it. The Windies skipper was not at his six-hitting best, but he still scored 44 off the 31 balls he faced, striking four fours and a maximum. He rebuilt and made sure the Windies didn’t roll over for an underwhelming total, and also kept injecting momentum at the right time.
What really propelled Windies to a near-160 total was Russell’s cameo towards the end. Dre Russ, who had a forgettable tournament prior to this game, struck two sixes and a four in the seven balls he faced, and swung the momentum in Windies’ favor. The last two balls of the innings, bowled by Starc, were both dispatched out of the ground, and Windies, somehow, finished with a more-than-respectable total.
Irresistible Warner and Marsh help Australia crush West Indies
Like during the first innings, you couldn’t help but think that this could be ‘one of those days’, after the first over from Akeal Hosein. The left-arm-spinner bowled a peach of a first over, and Australia did look clueless across those six balls. Suddenly, 157 did not look too small a target.
But on the ninth ball of the innings, Warner made room for himself and slapped Roston Chase through the off-side to bring up his first boundary of the day. And that unlocked the beast within Warner which we hadn’t seen since the second half of IPL 2020. Nope, not even in the Sri Lanka encounter where he scored a fine fifty.
More often than not across the past twelve months, Warner has looked shaky up-front, and has taken time to get going. But not today. In just the third over of the match, he smacked an in-form Jason Holder for two fours and a six, through some trademark hits, and looked in sublime touch. Australia lost Finch in the fourth over, but even that did not stop Warner. He simply kept going.
The southpaw, at one point, was on 28 off 12, and he ended the powerplay on 40*. Only thrice in his T20I career has he ever scored more runs inside the first six overs. He eventually got to his fifty off just 28 balls and looked to kill the chase all by himself.
But Warner didn’t have to kill the chase all by himself. He had company in the form of Mitchell Marsh. Promoted (??) to number three, Marsh batted as if the month was July and the venue was St Lucia, and played his best innings of the competition.
The Western Australian brought up his first boundary of the day on his fifth ball, and simply did not look back after that. He found the boundary four more times in the next 12 balls, and looked like a man on a mission. He did not stop or slow down at any point, and eventually posted his first fifty of the tournament, which came off just 28 balls.
He almost saw the team home, only for Chris Gayle (yes, you read that right) to get the better of him with the scores tied. That, really, was the most entertaining moment of the match. Gayle, after almost getting Warner stumped, tossed one up in the air, and Marsh fell for the trap, hitting the ball straight to Jason Holder at mid-off. The duo shared a nice little moment after the dismissal, with the Universe Boss giving a bear-hug to ‘Bison’.
Warner, though, did not fall for any traps like Marsh did. He stayed till the end, hit the winning runs and ensured Australia put one foot in the semis. A genius innings from a genius player.