Needing only 188 to win Game 2 in the three-match ODI series against Alex Carey’s Australians, the West Indies seemed headed for a second successive shipwreck at Barbados’ Kensington Oval on Saturday.
But a solid 93-run sixth wicket partnership between vice-captain Nicholas Pooran and former captain Jason Holder steadied the listing WI ship and saw Kieron Pollard’s men safely into harbour. The margin of victory was four wickets with all of 12 overs to spare.
Man-of-the-Match Pooran (59 off 75 balls, 2 x 4, 2 x 6) enjoyed more than his fair share of good fortune in getting his eighth ODI half-century off 60 balls. And he took his tally of ODI runs past the 1000-run mark, with only Viv Richards and Gordon Greenidge having got there faster than he.
Twice Pooran was let off by unwontedly sloppy Aussie fieldsmen and twice more false shots landed just short of would-be catchers. But he and Holder were both positive and resolute, the all-rounder too once reprieved by the technology which revealed a telling edge.
Holder enjoyed himself by stroking five fluent boundaries in 52, his tenth ODI half-century, which also contained one sweetly struck six off Riley Meredith.
From 72 for 5, the pair remained together until victory was a mere 23 runs away, unbothered by the scoreboard pressure which comes with daunting opposition totals. And although Carey threw everything he had in his arsenal at them, the pair rode their luck and weathered the storm and eventually whittled the deficit steadily down to more than manageable proportions.
Having won the toss on the originally scheduled match day, Carey opted for first use of a pitch which had enjoyed a couple of extra days of preparation because of Thursday’s Covid-induced postponement. It seems to have made it more, not less challenging for the batsmen.
So at 45 for 6 with quarter of the allotted 50 overs completed, the Aussie skipper may well have been rueing his decision. At that stage, the quicks had each claimed one of numbers 1, 2 and 3 and Akeal Hosein’s excellent left-arm orthodox spin had accounted for numbers four to six.
Sheldon Cottrell removed Ben McDermott for a duck in his first over and only fellow opener Josh Philippe (16 off 24) and skipper Carey (10 off 15) managed to get into double figures. But numbers seven to 11 would add more than three times the 13-over score.
Matthew Wade and Mitchell Starc (19 off 43) started the recovery by opting to eat little and live long. Together, they put on 51 in just under 15 overs to put a damper on the premature West Indian party.
But having survived a confident appeal for LBW off Hosein (3/30) when ball tracking showed that he had been struck outside the line of off-stump, Starc found himself less lucky at the second time of asking. Attempting unsuccessfully to sweep Hayden Walsh Jr, he got confirmation of the umpire’s affirmative response to the sustained West Indian appeal.
Adam Zampa and Wade (36 off 68) then added 32 for the eighth wicket before the left-hander, to his great chagrin, mistimed an off-drive off Alzarri Joseph and offered Pooran an easy catch at extra-cover.
With as many as 12 overs still potentially left in the innings, there really was no need to try to force the pace.
Nobody told Wes Agar (41 off 36, 3 x 4, 2 x 6). He and Zampa went merrily along, thumping pace and spin to the boundary ropes whenever errant line and or length allowed it. They had pushed the score to within sight of 200 when Cottrell eventually switched to over the wicket and bowled Zampa (36 off 63, 4 x 4) neck and crop.
Agar’s aggressive defiance finally ended next ball with him in sight of a maiden half-century. Joseph induced a false shot and Evin Lewis swallowed the skied chance at cover point.
Lewis (1 off 13) produced a false shot of his own in the third over of the West Indies reply, playing all around a yorker from Starc (3/26) that struck him plumb in front.
And one ball later, 10 for 1 became 10 for 2 when Darren Bravo missed Starc’s next delivery and had his furniture catspraddled.
Down one place from number three where, like Bravo, he had soon lost his off-stump on Tuesday with his team needing consolidation, Jason Mohammed (11 off 10) slowed the slide. With Shai Hope, he moved the score to 47 before Zampa (2/43) breached his defences. And, once Hope (38 off 43, 6 x 4) had intemperately run past after an Ashton Turner off-spinner and seen the ball crash into his stumps, Zampa’s very good googly removed Pollard (2 off 5) via the same route.
That brought Pooran and Holder together at 72 for 5. When they were separated, Holder unsuccessfully reviewing an LBW decision against Starc, Joseph (5 off 10) wielded a solid defensive bat long enough to allow Pooran to knock off the 20-odd runs needed for the important win.
The result sets up what promises to be a fiercely contested finale on Monday. Both sides have now had their pride dented by top-order batting failures and will be itching to demonstrate that those were mere aberrations.
But much more than pride will be at stake. With a win, the eighth-ranked home side can move to 50 points from nine completed games, in a tie for third with the third-ranked tourists on the ICC World Cup Super League table.
If the men from kangaroo country don’t head that off, it is almost certain to make them all hopping mad.
Australia: 187 all out (W Agar 41, M Wade 36, A Zampa 36, A Hosein 3/30, A Joseph 3/39, S Cottrell 2/29)
West Indies: 191 for 6 (N Pooran 59, J Holder 52, S Hope 38, M Starc 3/26, A Zampa 2/43, A Turner 1/37)
Man-of-the-Match: Nicholas Pooran
Result: WI win by 4 wkts
Three-match series level at 1-1