A comprehensive 56-run triumph in Saturday’s second T20I at the Daren Sammy Stadium in St Lucia left West Indies with their noses still in front. And within one win of sealing victory in the five-match series against Aaron Finch’s Australia.
After their exciting 18-run win in Friday’s opening encounter, it was largely a 103-run fourth wicket partnership between Man-of-the-Match Shimron Hetmyer (61 off 36 balls) and Dwayne Bravo (47 not out off 34) which helped the Nicholas Pooran-led home side to their surprise 2-0 lead.
Powered by the 24-year-old left-hander and the 37-year-old former white ball captain, WI ended their innings just short of 200. And despite a second successive half-century from Mitchell Marsh (54 off 42 balls), after losing both their hard-hitting openers early in their reply, Finch’s men mounted no real challenge to the buoyant homesters, dismissed in the final over for a mere 140.
Finch called right for the second time and again asked the home side to take first strike. Opener Andre Fletcher (9 off 7) went early and number three Chris Gayle (13 off 16) continued his run of poor form. Fletcher’s aggressive opening partner Lendl Simmons (31 off 21) struck three sixes and one four before he was second man out at 44 in the last over of the Powerplay.
At Gayle’s dismissal, bowled off the inside edge, Bravo came out ahead of his skipper to join the left-handed Hetmyer, Pooran wishing to continue to complicate things for Finch’s bowlers with a right-hand/left-hand combination.
The pair took the score from an unsteady 59 for 3 in over #8 to the solidity of 162 for 4 in the 18th over. And then Andre Russell, who had blasted 51 off 28 balls to set up Friday’s surprise win, added a quick-fire 24 off eight balls in the final two overs to see the WI to a challenging 196 for 4.
Although Hetmyer’s half-century contained four sixes and two fours, it was by no means a typical knock from the left-hander. On Saturday, the 24-year-old, who often gets starts and then self-destructs, was much more circumspect that usual, content, it seemed, to keep the scoreboard ticking steadily rather than spectacularly.
He would tell the post-match interviewer that full-time white ball captain Kieron Pollard, out through injury, has been in his ear to get him to focus on steady accumulation, without the kind of injudicious shots with which he tends to give his hand away. He added that that had also been his approach on Friday (when he only made 20 off 25 balls).
This time, however, he had had the satisfaction of going on to get a half-century.
Together, he and Bravo, who had carved the last ball of Friday’s innings over midwicket for six, pushed the ball around and sprinted singles and twos to keep the momentum building. The tactic eventually cost Hetmyer his wicket when he responded to a Bravo call but then hesitated—only to be run out at the bowler’s end by an alert Josh Philippe.
Russell then made the Aussies pay for removing Hetmyer, bludgeoning half of the eight balls he faced to or over the boundary. That end to the innings left Pooran and his men on a high at the halfway stage.
Things got no better for the visitors when their innings began; it never got off the ground. But Matthew Wade’s aerial drive off Sheldon Cottrell’s second ball did—and was pouched by Russell low down at mid-on.
When Fidel Edwards’ slower ball completely flummoxed Finch, rapped him on the pad and cannoned into his stumps, Australia were 19 for 2 in the Powerplay. And up against it.
“Chasing 190, you have to get off to a pretty good start,” Finch observed after the match. “And when your two openers get out cheaply, it puts a lot of pressure on a reasonably inexperienced—at least in terms of international T20 cricket—middle order.”
The 29-year-old Marsh has almost ten years’ international cricket and 22 T20Is under his belt so he does not quite qualify as ‘inexperienced’. It showed.
He kept his head to post another half-century, with five fours and a solitary six. But his inexperienced team-mates kept losing their heads and their wickets, especially after the linchpin of the innings mistimed one from Hayden Walsh and was well caught by Bravo, leaping high down at long-on.
The leg-spinner (3/29) was not at his best as he was on Friday, repeatedly failing to find the right lengths. But the Aussies were not at their best either and contrived not to take advantage of deliveries that, on another day, would probably have ended up out of the ground.
In the event, after Marsh’s demise at 101 for four, the innings subsided swiftly, only Moises Henriques (19 off 21) managing to get to double figures. On Friday, the last six wickets added 38 runs; on Saturday they did slightly better, 39. And this despite Pooran’s side dropping no fewer than four chances, none of them easy except Fletcher’s momentum-slowing blooper at point off Finch in Cottrell’s second over.
It did not cost the WI on Saturday. On another day, it might.
West Indies: 196 for 4 (S Hetmyer 61, D Bravo 47*, L Simmons 31, M Marsh 1/18, A Agar 1/28)
Australia: 140 all out (M Marsh 54, H Walsh 3/20, S Cottrell 2/22)
Man-of-the-Match: Shimron Hetmyer
Result: West Indies won by 56 runs.
WI lead five-match series 2-0