Samuels’ century in vain - Australia beat West Indies by six wickets
Mitchell Marsh and Glenn Maxwell provided overdue contributions in the middle order to help Steven Smith guide Australia into the triangular series final with a six-wicket win over the West Indies at Bridgetown in Barbados last night.
Interim coach Justin Langer had been eager to see how his team responded under the pressure of possible tournament elimination; and Marlon Samuels' fine hundred (12 fours, two sixes) in partnership with Denesh Ramdin (five fours, three sixes) ensured Australia's batsmen had little margin for error at Kensington Oval.
However, Smith produced the workmanlike innings of a leader and was able to coax Marsh into one of his best and most complete international innings, albeit on a surface that bore closer resemblance to Australian climes than any other in this series. Maxwell then came in with the game still in the balance - Australia needed 62 off 50 balls - and responded with a starburst of shots that will help his own sense of esteem enormously after a series in which he was dropped for two matches.
Even so, the Australians will still want to improve their fielding and bowling, two areas that were found wanting in the afternoon. On the fastest pitch of the tournament so far, three early wickets to the new ball gave Australia a fine start after Smith sent West Indies in. However, Samuels found a willing ally in Ramdin and the pair put on 192 together, the best fourth wicket stand in all ODIs between the two teams.
After Samuels went on to his first ODI hundred against Australia, late-innings hitting left the visitors to question their choice of bowling first. The selectors again ignored spin and another indifferent fielding display was emphasised by Matthew Wade dropping Samuels on 65.
Early on it appeared that the pace in the pitch would be ideal for Aaron Finch and Usman Khawaja to set up Australia's chase, but both were to be hurried up by deliveries skidding through and out in the teens. Shannon Gabriel, the debutant, generated significant pace from his muscular action, though his impact was offset by the withdrawal of Jason Holder due to injury after two overs.
Smith and George Bailey sought to stabilise the innings, conscious there was little in-form batting beneath them. They did well for a time, but Bailey was uncomfortable against the turn and lift gained by Sulieman Benn - amid a selection of loose balls - and skied a catch with 184 still required.
The Australians elected to send Marsh in ahead of Maxwell and the gambit paid off richly. Marsh enjoyed the extra pace in the pitch and grew nicely into his innings in Smith's company, using some of the cross bat shots he had learned at his home ground at the WACA in Perth. With Smith working the ball around sensibly they kept the target in sight and were able to generate the odd piece of slipshod West Indian fielding.
In the end, the efforts to stretch the fielders cost Smith his wicket as he was comfortably run out when the target was looming within sight.
(Daniel Brettig, assistant editor, ESPNcricinfo)
West Indies innings
J Charles c Smith b Starc 0
ADS Fletcher c Marsh b Starc 9
DM Bravo c Smith b Hazlewood 15
MN Samuels c Marsh b Faulkner 125
D Ramdin+ b Starc 92
KA Pollard c Marsh b Boland 20
CR Brathwaite b Boland 7
JO Holder* c Marsh b Faulkner 1
SP Narine not out 1
Extras (lb 4, w 9) 13
Total (8 wickets; 50 overs) 282
To bat SJ Benn, ST Gabriel
Fall of wickets 1-0 (Charles, 0.4 ov), 2-29 (Bravo, 7.2 ov), 3-31 (Fletcher, 8.1 ov), 4-223 (Ramdin, 42.4 ov), 5-247 (Pollard, 46.3 ov), 6-269 (Brathwaite, 48.4 ov), 7-274 (Holder, 49.1 ov), 8-282 (Samuels, 49.6 ov).
Bowling: Starc 10-1-51-3 (3w), Hazlewood 10-3-40-1, Faulkner 10-0-56-2, Boland 10-0-69-2 (3w), Marsh 5-0-36-0 (1w), Finch 3-0-16-0, Maxwell 2-0-10-0 (w).
UT Khawaja c +Ramdin b Gabriel 17
AJ Finch c Samuels b Brathwaite 16
SPD Smith* run out (Bravo/Benn) 78
GJ Bailey c Pollard b Benn 34
MR Marsh not out 79
GJ Maxwell not out 46
Extras (b 3, lb 4, w 6) 13
Total (4 wickets; 48.4 overs) 283
Did not bat MS Wade+, JP Faulkner, MA Starc, JR Hazlewood, SM Boland.
Fall of wickets 1-35 (Finch, 4.3 ov), 2-35 (Khawaja, 5.1 ov), 3-99 (Bailey, 18.3 ov), 4-221 (Smith, 41.4 ov).
Bowling: Holder 2-0-20-0, Gabriel 9-1-43-1, Brathwaite 9-0-62-1, Benn 10-0-47-1, Narine 10-0-49-0 (3w), Pollard 5.4-0-42-0 (3w), Fletcher 3-0-13-0.
Result: Australia won by six wickets.
Points: Australia 4, West Indies 0
Man-of-the-Match: Marlon Samuels.
Umpires: Gregory Brathwaite, Richard Kettleborough; TV - Kumar Dharmasena.