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A significantly changed West Indies outfit was put to the sword by a professional Australian unit in the first T20 international at St. Lucia with the visitors cruising to an easy 8-wicket win with nearly 2 overs to spare. Batting first, the West Indies made a very much underpar 150/7 as their rookie top order failed to fire. A 20-ball half-century from Kieron Pollard gave the fans something to cheer on an otherwise poor day for the hosts. Shane Watson (69) and Michael Hussey (59) produced contrasting half-centuries to steer their side to a comfortable win, with the former running away with the man-of-the-match honours after an excellent bowling display saw him concede just 16 runs from his 4 overs, also chipping in with a wicket.
The West Indies won the toss in the 1st T20 of the series at Gros Islet, St. Lucia and chose to make first use of a pitch where batting first had been the winning formula in both one dayers played here last week. Both teams used the opportunity to change things around with Australia recalling allrounder Daniel Christian for Peter Forrest and giving young James Pattinson a chance to impress in place of the steady Ben Hilfenhaus. The Aussies also had their 'other skipper' for this format with George Bailey taking over tossing duties from Shane Watson, with the latter deemed good enough to captain in the 50-over format, but shockingly not in T20s! The West Indies made some changes en masse with Smith, Bonner, Mathurin and Santokie coming into the side.
The powerplay was a bit of a mixed bag with 6 boundaries being the predominant scoring shots in a period which saw a lot of dot balls. Dwayne Smith made a-run-a-ball 10 before edging one through to the keeper off Brett Lee, while Johnson Charles took three boundaries off a Lee over to race to 24 before falling leg before to Shane Watson as soon as the powerplay concluded. 23-year old Jamaican Nkrumah Bonner, playing in just his 2nd T20 International, had looked woefully out of his depth early on, struggling to lay bat to ball.
A woefully out of form Darren Bravo looked anything but as struck a beautiful boundary to launch his innings, but his attempt to up the ante in the 11th over brought about his downfall for 12, caught in the deep off Daniel Christian. Bonner meanwhile improved considerably as he spent more time out in the middle, making a solid 24 from 33 balls (after being 2 from 12), before a rather ambitious slog saw his furniture disturbed by the ever accurate Dan Christian. The Windies were struggling a bit at 72/4 in 12 overs, on a pitch where 180 might be a good T20 score.
The arrival of Kieron Pollard and Dwayne Bravo brought some expected urgency to the style of play out in the middle as 19 runs came off the next 2 overs, as a result also pushing the infielders back to the edge of the circle, allowing the batsmen to pick up more singles. Australia took a chance by tossing the ball to Xavier Doherty for the 16th over of the innings, and Pollard helped himself to 2 maximums and a couples of boundaries to give the score a massive boost with 22 runs coming off the over. Pollard was by now enjoying himself out in the middle, and deposited Clint McKay into the stands on consecutive deliveries in the next over. Dwayne Bravo though perished on the final delivery of the over, chipping the ball to the fielder at long-off to end his vital 11-ball stint for 14. He was replaced by the West Indies skipper Darren Sammy, and he got a heroes reception after his fireworks in the final ODI of the series.
Pollard brought up his half-century in the next over, getting to the landmark off just 20 deliveries, but Shane Watson produced an exceptional overs in the circumstances to the two most dangerous West Indies batsmen, conceding just 4 runs. The late fireworks which the growing crowd were expecting never arrived as Watson and Lee put on a masterclass of bowling the inswinging yorker to restrict the West Indies to just 150/7 from their 20 overs. Pollard ended with an unbeaten 54, but scored just 4 of those from the last 6 deliveries he faced as the Aussies gave him absolutely nothing to swing at.
At the half-way stage it was advantage Australia, with the West Indies undoubtedly looking 20-30 runs shy of a challenging score.
Left-arm seamer Krishmar Santokie, who had a solid debut against England at the Oval last September, gave the hosts a dream start by picking up the wicket of David Warner in his opening over, bowled for naught. Left-arm spinner Garey Mathurin, who picked up 3-9 against England in the aforementioned game, shared the new ball with Santokie. Australia meanwhile had opted to stick with the left-right batting combination, but had surprisingly opted not to use Matthew Wade, but Michael Hussey at no.3. Australia's quality at the top order shone through against a rookie West Indies bowling attack as they helped themselves to 52 runs in the powerplay without any further loss of wickets.
Australia moved into milking the bowling mode, opting to see out the dangerous Sunil Narine, while helping themselves to some easy runs from the other end. The arrival of Kieron Pollard to the bowling crease awakened the coasting Aussies with Shane Watson getting some of his own back of the powerful Trinidad man by tonking him for 16 runs in his first over. At the 12 over mark Australia were comfortably placed at 99/1 with Watson leading the charge with 6 sixes and an equal number of fours in his fast paced 63.
Watson added another maximum to his kitty before holing out to deep midwicket off Mathurin. With less than a-run-a-ball required from here on out, the match seemed to be very much in the bag. Hussey brought up his half-century off 40 balls in the 17th over and was given an immediate second life by Sammy, who dropped a dolly from the veteran left-hander at short cover. To make matters worse, 12 runs came off that Dwayne Smith over, leaving Australia with just 10 to get to wrap up the win.
A boundary on the first ball of the penultimate over sealed the win for the Aussies as they took an unassailable 1-0 lead in this short 2-match series. After spending a week in St. Lucia, the action will now shift to a more traditional home for cricket in the West Indies as Bridgetown welcomes the Aussies on Friday, 30th March.
West Indies: J Charles, DR Smith, NE Bonner, DM Bravo, DJ Bravo, KA Pollard, CS Baugh (wk), DJG Sammy (c), GE Mathurin, K Santokie, SP Narine
Australia: DA Warner, MS Wade (wk), SR Watson, MEK Hussey, DJ Hussey, GJ Bailey (c), DT Christian, CJ McKay, XJ Doherty, B Lee, JL Pattinson
West Indies 150/7 (20 overs, 7.5rpo)
K Pollard 54 (26) D Christian 3-27
J Charles 24 (16) S Watson 1-16
Australia 153/2 (18.1 overs, 8.42rpo)
S Watson 69 (43) K Santokie 1-27
M Clarke 59* (45) G Mathurin 1-33
Australia win by 8 wickets with 11 balls to spare
File Photograph Copyright: Barry Zee
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