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February 9, 2013
It is difficult to imagine a harder home contest to hype than this game, barring a top-end series in the middle of winter against Bangladesh. For starters, it's a dead rubber and the best a lacklustre West Indies can hope for is a consolation win to make the scoreline 4-1. Secondly, Australia's selectors and team management are already half focused on the fast-approaching Test tour of India, Matthew Wade, Glenn Maxwell and others having already flown to Chennai (David Warner would have joined them but has stayed back a few days to nurse his broken thumb). Thirdly, the captain Michael Clarke is sidelined by a hamstring injury, and George Bailey might be as well. And fourth, for reasons out of cricket's control, all the sporting headlines in Australia this week remain centred on allegations of drugs and match fixing in other codes.
But for all that, a few interesting sub-plots remain. Can Australia's stand-in captain Shane Watson follow his 122 and 76 with another big score? Watson has made no secret of his desire to return to the Test team as an opener and his success at the top of the order in this series has already turned the spotlight a little in the direction of Ed Cowan, who has been a solid and consistent, but not spectacular Test performer. Can Aaron Finch finally grab his ODI chance or will this be a summer of wasted opportunities for him in the 50-over format? If Shaun Marsh, on standby for Bailey, returns for his first ODI in nearly 18 months how will he cope with the attention? And what will the Sydney century do for the confidence of Kieron Pollard, that rarity in the West Indies side, a man who can thrill as much as Chris Gayle?
Form guide(Most recent first)
In the spotlight
Anybody who has seen Aaron Finch's one-day and Twenty20 performances at domestic level over the past few seasons knows he is immensely talented. John Inverarity's selection panel knows it too. They want to groom him as a permanent member of the side with a long-term view to the 2015 World Cup. But at some point Finch needs to repay their belief. Since making his ODI debut against Sri Lanka last month he has scored 16, 4, 10, 11, 38 and 25. The lack of a big score is particularly notable in comparison to Phillip Hughes, who debuted alongside Finch last month and already has two centuries and an 86. Finch needs a score like that for his own confidence, and to retain the confidence of the selectors.
Sunil Narine caused a few problems for Australia's top order in the fourth game, beating Phillip Hughes in flight and accounting for Aaron Finch with variation in pace. He has taken only five wickets in four matches so far this series but his variations make him a constant threat, and those remaining Australians who are part of the Test squad, including Hughes and Watson, will be especially keen to score some more runs against spin before they fly to India.
Without Glenn Maxwell, who has flown to India to prepare for the Test series, Australia will consider bringing Xavier Doherty back in, while five fast men including the uncapped Nathan Coulter-Nile may be competing for four places. The most likely scenario is for Coulter-Nile to sit out and make his international debut in the T20 on Wednesday. Clarke is missing due to his hamstring problem and there is also an ongoing question mark surrounding George Bailey, who missed Friday's game with a hamstring niggle.
"George is certainly in the mix," Watson said on the eve of the match. "We hope that his hamstring will be able to continue to recover really well and be right for tomorrow. Shaun Marsh is on standby for him at this point in time. We've all got our fingers crossed for George because it's been amazing how well he's been batting and I know from experience that you want to be able to continue the momentum when you are batting well and not let injury give you a couple of weeks off and maybe take a little bit of that form away."
Australia (possible) 1 Shane Watson (capt), 2 Aaron Finch, 3 Phillip Hughes, 4 George Bailey / Shaun Marsh, 5 Adam Voges, 6 Brad Haddin (wk), 7 Mitchell Johnson, 8 James Faulkner, 9 Ben Cutting, 10 Clint McKay, 11 Xavier Doherty.
Chris Gayle was left out on Friday after hurting his left side during the third ODI and he will again have a fitness test on Sunday before his availability is decided. Tino Best should retain his place after bowling well in Sydney, where he took the place of Kemar Roach.
West Indies (possible) 1 Kieron Powell, 2 Johnson Charles, 3 Darren Bravo, 4 Dwayne Bravo, 5 Kieron Pollard, 6 Narsingh Deonarine, 7 Devon Thomas (wk), 8 Darren Sammy (capt), 9 Andre Russell, 10 Sunil Narine, 11 Tino Best.
Pitch and conditions
There were plenty of runs available in the one-day international at the MCG last month, when Australia scored 5 for 305 batting first against Sri Lanka. The forecast for Sunday in Melbourne is for a morning shower or two and a top of 23C.
Stats and trivia
Quotes"We want to win 5-0. We're almost there and then we'll focus on India."
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets hereFeeds: Brydon Coverdale
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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