Symonds and Clarke in charge as Aussies go three up
Australia 258 for 4 (Symonds 75, Clarke 75*) beat West Indies 233 for 9 (Gayle 43, Hinds 42) by 25 runs and lead the 7-match series 3-0
It was an unfamiliar-looking Australian side - no Adam Gilchrist, no Darren Lehmann, no Brett Lee (so no Lee in the Leeward Islands) - but by the end of this match, at the beautiful Beausejour Stadium in St Lucia, the tale was rather more familiar. Australia won quite easily by 25 runs, their 20th consecutive one-day victory, and now lead the seven-match series 3-0.
Man of the Match Michael Clarke on his way to an unbeaten 75
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Australia's batting heroes were Andrew Symonds and Michael Clarke, who added 99 together after Ricky Ponting's run-out briefly threatened a wobble. The 22-year-old Clarke, cool and correct, still doesn't have an ODI average after adding 75 not out to the unbeaten 39 he made in his only previous game, against England at Adelaide in January. Sporting more hair than in that innings, Clarke survived for 100 balls here, and worked the ball around well. He hit only five fours, one of them a stand-to-attention pull to midwicket off a short one from Omari Banks, but nonetheless impressed in a mature innings which, when added to three crisp catches later on, won him the Man of the Match award. At the end, as Clarke scampered sharp singles with his fellow New South Welshman Michael Bevan, it was hard to spot who was the renowned one-day finisher and who was the young apprentice.
Symonds also played well, recovering from running out his captain to post a muscular 75, with nine crunching fours, before heaving across a fuller one from Chris Gayle (178 for 4). Ponting had threatened to take charge, and had breezed to 32 before Symonds called him through for a quick single. Corey Collymore, the bowler, pounced on the ball and underarmed it into the stumps. It was a close-run thing, and the third umpire Eddie Nicholls needed a couple of replays before he pressed the red button. That made it 79 for 3, in the 17th over.
Earlier Matthew Hayden had tickled one that bounced a bit from Merv Dillon to Carlton Baugh behind the stumps (25 for 1). It was only the first ball of the fifth over, but Hayden had already clumped four fours in his 20. At the other end Jimmy Maher, given the doubly exacting task of deputising for Gilchrist with both kinds of gloves, had grafted to 17 off 33 balls when he tried to sweep Banks's busy offspin. He only succeeded in popping the ball straight to Devon Smith at short fine leg (48 for 2).
For a while, when Gayle was smashing Jason Gillespie straight for six and clubbing Glenn McGrath for a no-prisoners four, West Indies were in with a chance. But then reality set in - Gayle fell to Nathan Hauritz for 43, Brian Lara was castled by Andy Bichel for just 4, and Australia were favourites again.
Hauritz, the young offspinner from Queensland, made two important incisions. With his second ball he persuaded Ramnaresh Sarwan to drive uppishly to Gillespie at mid-off (67 for 2), then in his next over Gayle cut one straight to Clarke at point (70 for 3). Hauritz had 2 for 3 in eight balls, and Australia were back on top after Gayle's mini-blitz.
Wavell Hinds, restored to the side after being dropped, played his way back to something like form, compiling 42 in 59 balls before he was run out by the length of the pitch immediately after a drinks session (150 for 5). Hinds had put on 65 with Marlon Samuels, whom he had been expected to replace in the side - but a late bout of sickness to Vasbert Drakes handed Samuels an 11th-hour reprieve, and he too regained some form with an obdurate 37 in 65 balls. Ricardo Powell clattered Brad Hogg for an effortless six, and Bichel for another, but after bashing 26 from just 11 balls he flat-batted Gillespie to Clarke at deep cover (181 for 6). Next ball Samuels slashed the same bowler to the same fielder, and the game was as good as up.
The first to go had been Smith, caught behind by Maher while attempting to run McGrath down to third man (20 for 1). But the key wicket, as always, was Lara's: attempting a cross-batted heave at Bichel, he succeeded only in dragging the ball into his stumps (85 for 4). It was the sixth time Bichel had dismissed Lara in ODIs, and it derailed West Indies' chances of a win here.
Steven Lynch is editor of Wisden CricInfo.