Australia sent crashing out of World Twenty20
If the Chris Gayle controversy surrounding the alleged security breach was an attempt to distract the West Indies ahead of their semi-final against Australia, it was one that back-fired majorly.
Gayle led a Caribbean pillage with the bat, aided amply by two Trinidad and Tobago men, Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard, at the other end.
And with Shane Watson falling early in the Australian chase, the rest of the batting melted away faster than a bar of chocolate under the Colombo sun.
A defeat of 74 runs following another crushing loss at the hands of Pakistan last game ensured some hard thinking would be needed from the Australian management.
For now, Australia will go home empty-handed again, after making an excellent start in the tournament.
Only captain George Bailey defied the inevitable with a 29-ball 63 and pushed Australia to a less-than-embarrassing 131.
As the seventh wicket stand between Bailey and Patrick Cummins exhibited, the track could hardly be blamed for the Australian downfall. West Indies, who had batted on it just prior to Australia, showed it in good light too.
The blame, then, can be attached to the lack of batting opportunities that the middle-order had got in the games leading up to this one.
On the one occasion that Watson did get out early, the Australian batting had failed to come to grips with the pitch and made scoring for themselves a mighty task. This time it could well be attributed to the pressure of chasing a run-rate of more than 10 from the very start.
They never got going right from when Dave Warner was bowled in the first over of the chase to Samuel Badree. The rest of the order followed soon after, capitulating to 6/43 at one stage.
Bailey’s counter-attacking half-century aside, only Michael Hussey and Pat Cummins got into double figures.
At the start of the innings, the pitch seemed to be on the slower side, but not as slow as the one yesterday. The one similarity between the two was that for a batsmen just coming in to bat, getting their strokes right was always going to be tough.
The one thing Australia did well was to keep Chris Gayle away from the strike. In a way, that was probably a worry for them too, with signs of the big Jamaican exploding every time he got to the striker’s crease.
Having played 18 balls in the first 10 overs, Gayle scored 26. West Indies were 2/74 at that stage. It was a sign of things to come.
Time and again in the tournament, the West Indies have shown great depth in batting. While Gayle has got them off to starts, he hasn’t had that really big one under his belt and yet, the West Indian batsmen have managed two big scores in the four matches they have played – 191 and 179.
This batting depth came to the fore yet again.
It was a relatively new role that Gayle played, mostly getting singles away and spanking the odd six. But by the looks of things, it was also a tactic that West Indies seemed to have consciously used – get Gayle batting through the innings without overt attempts at clearing the boundary, a role assigned to those at the other end.
There were sixes but those few and far between, interspersed between many a single and some rotated strike.
At the other end the brief had been precise. Hit them hard and long. And each one of those batsmen partnering Gayle carried out that mandate to the best of their abilities.
Charles’ time at the crease was a short one but in the two and a something overs he was at the crease he warned the Aussies enough. A few dot balls apart, he smacked a couple to the fence and was dismissed attempting a third.
Samuels furthered that belief. He began with a crisp shot through wide mid-off that sped to the fence and then blew a six off Xavier Doherty over long-on. A change in spinners did not matter to Samuels, who slapped Brad Hogg for a flat six over his head.
The intent wasn’t restricted against spin bowling alone. The first ball of Cummins’ second over was cracked over extra-cover for another boundary before the fun was ended by his change-down in pace second ball.
Samuels attempted another one of those lofted drives over extra-cover but was beaten by a delivery that never came on to the bat.
Again, that barely changed the West Indian intent. Dwayne Bravo, picked ahead of his brother this game despite not being in a position to bowl, came in at four and blasted three sixes in his 31-ball stay. He made 37.
The final push came from the pair of Gayle and Kieron Pollard, two of the hardest hitting batsmen when in flow. The West Indies had 74 on the board after the first 10, 39 in the next four before ending with 92 in the last six.
Pollard ended unbeaten on 38, requiring only 15 balls to get there. Gayle, who faced only 41 balls in the entire innings, made 75, peppered with six sixes and five fours.