Few surprises in Carlton Series as Australia remain the team to beat
Steve Waugh: Expects to win
Photo © AllSport
So far, there have been few surprises in the one-day Carlton Series. If one is honest, one would agree that Australia are so far ahead of the other two teams that it would be a surprise if the Australians even lose a game.
Steve Waugh, now "rested", through injury, has suggested exactly that about his outstanding Australian team:
"We have not had a great recent one-day history, but the way we are playing these days, I would be extremely surprised, and very disappointed too, if we do not win this competition, after doing so very well in the Test series.
"Our one-day team is really so interchangeable that even when some are not in form, or even injured, we can always find people to fill the spaces.
"Damien Martyn is a case in point. He has never really failed us, yet he cannot get in as regularly as either he or we would like. What is impressive, though, on his part, is that he keeps himself ready, and once a space becomes available, he fits in like he belongs. That is what we expect from those that are not the regulars."
There was great drama at the Gabba on Saturday when West Indian Ricardo Powell, the eventual "Man of the Match", hit his fourth one-day half-century, a powerful 83 not out, including nine fours and one six, enhancing his growing reputation as a great striker of the ball.
Powell batted with a mature temperament and perhaps showed why he should be allowed to play more cricket, especially Test cricket. He has convinced me.
His innings also helped his team to their first win in the Carlton Series, the first international game that the West Indies have won since coming to Australia in November, 2000.
In this second game of the twelve match preliminary one-day series, before the best of three finals, the West Indies beat Zimbabwe by one wicket with eight balls to spare.
Set 241 in their 50 overs, the West Indies were wobbling at 119-4 after 24 overs, with senior batsmen Sherwin Campbell, out for a useful 42, Wavell Hinds, for no-score, Brian Lara, for 21 and captain Jimmy Adams, for 24, all dismissed.
Powell soon lost Marlon Samuels, for an organised 34, before he and Mahendra Nagamootoo put on 46 for the eighth wicket.
Nagamootoo went for eight, with the West Indies still needing 12 runs for victory, and when Nixon McLean was ninth out, for one, the West Indies needed a further two runs, from 11 deliveries.
The 12,000 plus crowd were on their feet as all Zimbabwe needed was that final wicket. It never came, Powell striking the winning run, to the great delight of his anxious team-mates.
Earlier, having won the toss and elected to bat first on a good pitch, Zimbabwe seemed to squander a great opportunity for a big score, ending on 240-9 from their 50 overs.
At one stage, Zimbabwe was 154-2, with 16 of the allotted overs still remaining. Opener Alistair Campbell and wicket-keeper/batsman Andy Flower, two former team captains and the most experienced players in Zimbabwe's team, had put on 86 from 97 deliveries for the third wicket.
Once Andy Flower had been dismissed, for 33, Campbell also lost his rhythm and was soon dismissed, for a polished 81, including one six and four fours. Marlon Samuels took both wickets.
The rest of Zimbabwe's batting, without another veteran, Grant Flower, out with a hand injury, then faded, and it was left to their captain, Heath Streak, with a quick-fire 34 not out from only 28 deliveries, to see his team to their eventual 240-9.
For the West Indies, fast bowler Nixon McLean finished with 3-48 from his 10 overs.
It was Ricardo Powell, though, who was the toast of the West Indies. This is the first international game that the West Indies have won since June last year, when they beat England at Trent Bridge in the NatWest Series, which also featured Zimbabwe.
This was such a better effort, and result, for the West Indies. When they played Australia on Thursday last, the first of the Carlton Series games, the West Indies were badly embarrassed, losing by 74 runs, and it was not that close.
More particularly, the West Indies did not seem to ever be in the same game.
After playing Australia again, in game three of the series, the result was the same for the West Indies. Having made a greatly inadequate 234, the West Indies looked on with disbelief to see how it should be done.
Two distinct things were evident for the West Indies in the third game at the Gabba, the second for the West Indies in consecutive days, their second loss to the Australians.
These West Indians are suffering from the "Caribbean Cricket Syndrome", where the batsmen only survive long enough for 50 or thereabouts. Once they get to 50, the West Indians seem to run out of steam and energy to carry on. Hinds made 54, then subsided. So too did Adams, who made 44. They have to learn to carry on.
The second obvious situation for the West Indies is that their outfielding is not nearly good enough for this level.
Hinds dropped what can only be called a "sitter" from acting Australian captain Adam Gilchrist when he was only two in game three. Gilchrist then made 96 more to end with 98.
To add more salt to the already wounded West Indians, Mark Waugh cemented their fate with as patient an innings as I have seen in one-day cricket.
Worst, he was even filled with disdain for his opponents:
"I do not want to sound cocky or anything, but the West Indies did not put any pressure on us at all. After the opening overs, which were good, the pressure was lost, and we could pick off runs any way we wanted. To be honest, I am not bored with the batting, as such, but it has been very easy indeed."
The West Indies outfielding has been atrocious, with Laurie Williams looking the worst of the players, which is a distinction in itself, dropping two catches in the two games, and misfielding terribly, balls going right through him to the boundary. He is just worst than many others.
Overall, the West Indies cricket team, with three, yes three coaches, including Roger Harper, one of the best West Indies fielders ever, and Julian Fountain, a supposed fielding coach, in the midst. It has been as embarrassing as it has been shameful.
At this rate, Australia would be sitting pretty early in the piece, waiting to see which of Zimbabwe or the West Indies would play them in the finals in mid-February.
At least, the West Indies have now won an international game on this tour, so it could still be a good one-day series for the West Indies.
Zimbabwe now will have to work much harder than ever to get into that final, but they should be concentrating on the West Indies, and vice versa. Neither team seems equipped to beat Australia, unless something strange happens.