January 26, 2001

Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse...

Australia's cricketers celebrated their country's 100th anniversary on Australia Day with as comprehensive a beating as they could have inflicted on their continued hapless victims, the West Indies.

The game ended well before the floodlights were even switched on, much less for them to take effect as the day turned to night.

It was a wholly embarrassing effort by the West Indies and a tremendous disappointment to more than 27,000 spectators who were in a holiday mood.

Even without their best bowler, Glenn McGrath, and their most in-form batsman, Ricky Ponting, Australia managed to beat the West Indies by ten wickets - and the result was not even that close.

This was the eighth match of the 2001 Carlton Series, the fourth between these two teams, and the beating that the West Indies took at the Adelaide Oval was as complete, if not more so, as any of their three previous defeats by Australia in this competition.

Having won the toss, the West Indies elected to bat first, taking on Brett Lee, Damien Fleming and company. From there on, it was no contest, despite the pitch playing fast and true.

After opener Darren Ganga had fallen in the second over, with no runs yet on the scoreboard, caught by Shane Warne from a ricochet off Mark Waugh's body, the West Indies simply disintegrated.

By the 11th over, the West Indies had tottered to 32/5, with Ganga, nought, Ridley Jacobs, two, Marlon Samuels, four, Brian Lara, nought, and Jimmy Adams, four, all back in the dressing room, courtesy of a charged-up Fleming and an after-burning Brett Lee.

Lara probably got the fastest delivery of the day, his first, and was beaten for pace, caught plumb in front by Lee. On the other hand, Adams may have received the slowest delivery from the same bowler, a wonderful slower ball, with the same palpable result, caught fully in front. Earlier Lee had spread-eagled the stumps of Jacobs.

Again, the West Indies were close to recording their lowest-ever one-day score. Thanks, however, to Ricardo Powell, 16, Sylvester Joseph, 11, Mahendra Nagamootoo, 20, and Nixon McLean, 24, the West Indies prolonged the agony to reach 123 in just 35.1 overs.

There was a rumour circulating that if the innings had been completed before 25 overs had been bowled, then the patrons would have been entitled to a refund. After having the West Indies 10/4 in the sixth over and 41/6 in the 12th, perhaps that was the reason for Australia taking some of the pressure off the West Indies.

The tourists simply could not cope with Brett Lee, 4/33 from ten overs, Damien Fleming, 3/32 from ten, Ian Harvey, 2/11 from 7.1, and Shane Warne, 1/36 from eight. It was pure carnage.

Then Australia batted, and things looked so easy and ordinary, that no one could believe that the pitch was the same one that the West Indies had just been blown away on.

Damien Martyn played a wonderful cameo innings, his 69 not out was graced with a dazzling array of strokes, and included nine exciting boundaries.

Martyn and hometown hero Darren Lehmann really embarrassed the West Indies, not playing a false shot or putting a foot, or bat for that matter, wrong.

In the end, it was left to Lehmann to hit the winning runs, which also brought up his half-century. It was a disdainful pull for four off Nagamootoo to mid-wicket, despite most of the fieldsmen being on the boundary. Australia had won by ten wickets, batting only 91 minutes and 22.5 overs.

The irony of this competition is that even though the West Indies have completed their preliminary games against Australia and lost all four of them, they could still qualify for the finals.

Zimbabwe have three games left against Australia, in Sydney, Hobart and Perth, while they must also play against the West Indies, a game that promises to be of great importance, at Perth.

It could well come down to net run rate, if Zimbabwe beat the West Indies in their last encounter in Perth, since it is inconceivable that Zimbabwe will beat Australia in any of those three games.

In the meantime, Australia keep winning, showing their superiority while resting their key players, or perhaps highlighting the inferiority of their opponents.