Windies suffer cruel defeat in the rain
Colombo, Sri Lanka - West Indies drew the fans by the thousands to the R Premadasa Stadium but it was Australia that drew the attention of the rest of the field as the ICC World Twenty20 2012 went into overdrive on a rain-interrupted on Saturday night.
No team in world cricket entertains as much as West Indies does, and with its batting superstars in the forefront, it put in a power-packed performance to justify all the hype surrounding it in the lead-up to the competition.
However, not even Twenty20 games are won on the back of batting strength alone. Despite having left its ‘A’ game behind in the dugout when it bowled and fielded, Australia flexed its own formidable batting muscle to conjure a 17-run win on the Duckworth-Lewis method for its second straight victory in Group B, and a place in the Super Eights. The West Indies will face Ireland in a direct shootout on Monday, the winner joining Australia in the next phase.
It was a bit of a shame that the elements cut short the entertainment being lapped up by the highest crowd thus far in Colombo. The promise of fireworks from Chris Gayle and Company had brought the fans flocking to the Premadasa, and while there was no popular victory for the side the crowd backed vociferously, it had its money’s worth on a boundary-drenched night.
West Indies overcame an uncertain start – the pitch again posed a fair few problems early on – to cut loose in breathtaking fashion through Gayle and Marlon Samuels, posting a massive 191-8 in an innings remarkable for the manner in which the batsmen kept going at the Australians despite the fall of wickets.
Australia, however, has never been a pushover. Nothing stokes its fire more than being pushed, and it replied in kind, first through David Warner and then in the shape of the second-wicket pair of Shane Watson – who had a lot to do after dropping Gayle on four – and Mike Hussey.
Australia had placed itself well on course for victory at 100 for 1 in 9.1 overs when the skies opened up. With the par score according to the D/L method being 83, it was adjudged winner by 17 runs.
West Indian euphoria at the brilliance of its batting pack dissipated within two overs of the Australian chase. Warner was at his aggressive best, laying into Ravi Rampaul with unconcealed glee as boundaries came thick and fast. The second over yielded 22, including two fours and two sixes, and the gauntlet had been thrown down.
West Indies recovered brief ground when it won a shout for catch at the wicket from Asad Rauf to get rid of Warner, but its woes were far from over. Hussey started with typical industry while Watson, denied strike for the first 2.3 overs, quickly made up for lost time as he opened his big shoulders and tested the length of the boundaries for the second time in four days.
Watson did to Samuels what Warner had done to Rampaul earlier on, gathering 22 off his first over. He should have been dismissed during that blitz, but Dwayne Smith spilt a straightforward chance at deep mid-wicket with the batsman on 28. This was a night when dropped catches weren’t to go unpunished. As Watson himself had discovered earlier in the evening.
Gayle has redefined his approach to Twenty20 cricket in recent times, giving the first few balls to the bowlers. He quietly bided his time after seeing Smith cleaned up by a beauty from Mitchell Starc in the second over, and his first four didn’t come until ball No. 10, by which time he had already been put down by Watson and seen Johnson Charles smash Starc for a six and four off successive deliveries.
Pat Cummins had started with a maiden to Charles, but Gayle changed gears in his second over, using the pull to brilliant effect to amass 18. It signalled the start of a West Indian charge that lasted the rest of the innings.
The fans, who had loudly cheered Gayle all the way to the middle, were amply rewarded as he tore into the Australians. Samuels was completely becalmed in his company, contributing just 12 in a third-wicket stand of 46, but when Gayle departed, Samuels assumed the aggressor’s role.
For a couple of overs in the aftermath of the Gayle dismissal, the scoring rate dropped, but once Samuels found his bearings, it was back in the high 9s. Samuels had dawdled in making 15 off 19, but kicked on to reach his 50 in just 31 deliveries – five more than Gayle – with some of the most sparkling, attractive strokes of the night.
If there was no final push, it was as much because West Indies had consistently scored rapidly as the fact that it lost five wickets in the last five overs. 191 seemed respectable enough, until Warner, Watson and Hussey dictated otherwise.