Medium pacers won't be a big threat again
Michael Hussey doesn't expect Australia's batsmen to be tied down again by West Indies' band of medium pacers in the potential series-decider at the Gabba on Sunday. The tourists were without the very fast Kemar Roach during the third game in Sydney and restricted the hosts to 225 before rain washed out the match.
Roach is likely to miss out again with a left ankle injury, leaving West Indies to rely on their batch of un-frightening but effective seamers. The unusual new-ball pairing of Ravi Rampaul and Dwayne Smith combined for seven wickets on Friday as the pair benefited from the swinging conditions on a softish surface.
Hussey does not expect the pitch in Brisbane to be as kind to the West Indies attack as the hosts aim to wrap up the series with a game to play. "Somewhere like the Gabba where it's a lot more truer, with good bounce and good pace, and comes on to the bat a little bit more, I think it will suit our batting a bit more than it did in Sydney," he said.
Rampaul, who took 4 for 61 at the SCG, is slightly faster than the rest of the attack, but Smith, Kieron Pollard and Darren Sammy sit comfortably in the medium-pace bracket. Gavin Tonge is a quick option but hasn't been used yet and may come into calculations for the Gabba.
Chris Gayle was pleased with Rampaul's performance but still sees room for improvement, and he expects the Rampaul-Smith combination will be kept for specific occasions. "Those conditions definitely suited them a lot, and the medium pacers a lot," he said. "When they put the ball in the right area they created a lot of chances. This might be a different scenario, I think Australia might go back to the drawing board and assess the conditions a bit differently, you never know what they will come up with."
It is rare for an international team to operate without a main fast man and it takes some adjustment for the batsmen. "They mix up their pace very well, and try and be a little bit more defensive with their approach," Hussey said. "Not so much trying to get you out but trying to keep the run-scoring down.
"Sometimes in one-day games the pressure can build up and you probably go looking for something that's not quite there. With the quality of batsmen we have all the way down our list, if we just keep looking to play good shots then we can put the pressure back on their medium pacers."
Both teams are trying to claim they were in the stronger position when the rain came in Sydney, but that is a futile argument. The Australians are two matches away from an undefeated home Test and ODI season and Hussey said the squad was better placed than in previous years when fatigue took over in the latter stages of the summer and cost them a couple of trophies.
Sunday's fixture will be the fourth in eight days and the schedule is so crammed that there is not even room for training. Hussey said the break from the nets might be a good thing. In India last year he didn't train in between ODIs to stay fresh and since then he has scored 605 runs at 75.62 in 14 games.
"Our performances in one-day cricket have dropped a bit [in previous seasons] because we have kept training hard, and we have been beaten in a few series by India and England," he said. "I think it came down to fatigue, so definitely it has been a plan of the group to focus on rehab. The skills we are not going to lose over a short period of time when we are playing so much."
Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo