January 26, 2001

Australia's day as West Indians crumble again

Australia's Brett Lee, Damien Fleming, Damien Martyn and Darren Lehmann donned the party hats at the Adelaide Oval today. And, for its part, the West Indian batting order effectively brought along the gift of two points. On the occasion of the country's national day - a day that offers a celebration of all things Australian - the home team's ten wicket Carlton Series victory was possibly the most ridiculously easy of all in a season laden with massacres.

Cricket is not supposed to be a blood sport. But this most abject of performances from the tourists transformed it into something akin to it.

There was a sell-out crowd. There were glorious weather conditions. There was another true Adelaide Oval pitch. There was even the suggestion that the West Indians might play a little more confidently than usual after a last-start win over Zimbabwe. But, in the way of a more resilient performance from the tourists, there was simply nothing to be seen.

Captain Jimmy Adams won the toss and, without hesitation, decided that his team would bat first in ideal conditions. It was the team's first and last victory of this Australia Day.

By as early as the eighth ball of their innings, the West Indians were on the literal and metaphorical back foot. And, aside from a forty-one run stand for the tenth wicket that offered a touch of respectability, they never recovered.

Daren Ganga (0), Ridley Jacobs (2), Brian Lara (0), Marlon Samuels (4), Adams (4) and Ricardo Powell (16) were all removed before so many as twelve overs were bowled. The main point of discussion by then was not so much how many the tourists would score as to simply how long they would last. Also in dispute was whether the side as a whole could avoid the ignominious prospect of recording West Indies' lowest ever score in a one-day international. That mark of 87 was under pressure for a long period and was only bettered, in fact, when the final pairing of Nixon McLean (24*) and Cameron Cuffy (13) set off on easily the best partnership of the innings.

Albeit wholly welcome, the application shown by McLean and Cuffy in a forty-one run liaison reflected badly on their teammates. Few were able to last for anything but brief periods; even fewer managed to produce the sort of assured strokeplay that the circumstances demanded.

Only five players - McLean, Mahendra Nagamootoo (20), Powell (16), Cuffy and Sylvester Joseph (11) - so much as reached double figures. It was a measure, in fact, of the general ineptitude of the batsmanship on offer that extras served to make the biggest contribution of all to the eventual total of 123.

In the furious battle to snare the best bowling figures from the West Indian wreckage, it was speedster Lee (4/33 from ten overs) who emerged with the spoils. Lee had endured a rather troubled Carlton Series before today, finding the twin tasks of taking wickets and slowing run-scoring equally difficult. But he was never subjected to any pressure during his two stints at the bowling crease on this occasion.

On his return from injury, swing bowler Fleming (3/32 off ten) acquitted himself impressively. He was the one, in fact, who started the West Indian rot when he induced Ganga to edge a shot into the slips from only the second delivery of his comeback performance. There was a similarly effective contribution from medium pacer Ian Harvey (2/11 from 7.1 overs) through the middle and latter stages of the innings.

The tag of 'day-night' that had originally been applied to this match was then rendered a misnomer as Martyn (69*) and local hero Lehmann (50*) were thrown together at the top of the Australian order. In the space of just ninety-one minutes at the crease, the pair slaughtered an attack that found line, length and consistency elusive commodities.

Martyn played particularly explosively, matching crisp driving through the off side with some glorious strokes off the back foot. It was perhaps just as well that South Australian Lehmann, while more sedate, was in good touch too in front of an adoring home crowd of 27640. If he had not been, many among that number might, justifiably, have been demanding their money back.