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February 22, 2010
The Big Picture
It's three months since West Indies played their first match of this tour and they are about to embark on their last chance to beat Australia. A 2-0 Test loss was followed by a 4-0 one-day defeat and a disappointing effort in the first Twenty20. The shortest format might be their best chance to beat Australia but in truth, there has been precious little in their performances over the past couple of weeks to suggest that they will succeed. The story of the top order has been no Gayle, no hope, and their captain's wild swing to be bowled by Shaun Tait in Hobart continued his lean run in the past month.
For Australia, the lure of an unbeaten season is tantalisingly close. The only matches they have failed to win were the Adelaide Test draw with West Indies and the Sydney one-day wash-out, also against Gayle's men. The Twenty20 outfit looked sharp on Sunday, especially the attack as Tait and Dirk Nannes sped through West Indies' batting line-up. The openers David Warner and Shane Watson also fired but finding a cohesive and in-form middle order could be the challenge between now and the ICC World Twenty20.
Form guide (most recent first)Australia WWNLL
Watch out for...
Of all Australia's Twenty20 specialists, David Warner is the ultimate short format man. He has still played only four first-class games but in Twenty20 he is an international veteran and his clever strokeplay gave Australia the early advantage in Hobart. He initially drove several balls over extra cover with clean, classy strokes before launching into some midwicket slogs. He's also playing at his home ground.
There are far bigger stars in the West Indies outfit than Nikita Miller but his performance on Sunday showed how important he can be. Gayle used his spinner to open the bowling and Miller kept things tight with wile and skill and finished with 2 for 20 from four overs. Taking the pace off the ball can be useful against Australia's top order and at the SCG Miller could play a key role.
Australia must weigh up their reluctance to change a winning team with their desire to test out new players with three matches remaining before the World Twenty20. The allrounder Daniel Christian and the fast man Ryan Harris are the two players in the squad yet to make their Twenty20 debuts and it would make sense to give them a chance. Mitchell Johnson is a known quantity and could rest ahead of the New Zealand series, while Travis Birt's hold on the No. 6 position looks a little shaky after two matches.
Australia (possible) 1 Shane Watson, 2 David Warner, 3 Michael Clarke (capt), 4 David Hussey, 5 Cameron White, 6 Brad Haddin (wk), 7 Daniel Christian, 8 Steven Smith, 9 Ryan Harris, 10 Dirk Nannes, 11 Shaun Tait.
Gavin Tonge and Brendan Nash have been travelling with the squad throughout the limited-overs portion of the tour without being handed an opportunity. Given the team's dismal results there seems no reason not to try them out but adding Tonge might upset the batting balance, while Nash is hardly a slogger and has only ever played one Twenty20 for Jamaica. It could mean an unchanged side.
West Indies (possible) 1 Chris Gayle (capt), 2 Lendl Simmons, 3 Narsingh Deonarine, 4 Kieron Pollard, 5 Wavell Hinds, 6 Dwayne Smith, 7 Runako Morton, 8 Denesh Ramdin (wk), 9 Darren Sammy, 10 Nikita Miller, 11 Kemar Roach.
Pitch and conditionsExpect another good batting surface in Sydney, where the forecast for Tuesday is for 29C but the chance of an evening shower.
Stats and trivia
"It's been a good summer for Australian cricket and hopefully we can give the Windies another belting."
Shaun Tait is in no mood to be charitable
"You have to make the necessary adjustments but at the same time he is very, very quick."
Chris Gayle says it isn't easy facing Tait
A look back at five high-profile exhibition matches
Shakib Al Hasan trained with his team-mates as the BCB directors held their meeting in Mirpur, unaware of the massive punishment he was about to be hit with