May 25, 2003

Australia's winning streak comes to an end

West Indies 290 for 5 (Lara 80, Hinds 79) beat Australia 251 for 9 (Symonds 77) by 39 runs

Australia's 21-match unbeaten run has come to an end, the very day after they took an unassailable 4-0 lead in the seven-match series. West Indies won the toss and made an imposing 290 for 5, thanks to an enterprising second-wicket partnership of 178 between Brian Lara and Wavell Hinds, and some restrictive spells of bowling from an assortment of part-time spinners. Australia lost early wickets in reply and never came close, despite a classy 77 from Andrew Symonds. As Steve Waugh found out last month, clean sweeps in the Caribbean are notoriously hard to achieve.

Brian Lara drives during his match-winning innings of 80

Lara was in barnstorming form in the Tests, but had managed just 62 runs in the first four ODI matches, and invited criticism for coming in at No. 5 during yesterday's 67-run defeat. But today, determined to stave off another whitewash, he led from the front, coming in at No. 3 as early as the second over after Chris Gayle had been trapped lbw by Brett Lee.

He started slowly, but after taking a good look at the bowling, Lara launched into Glenn McGrath and Lee with a series of lacerating back-foot drives and pulls. They were statements of intent that were seized upon by an increasingly animated Port-of-Spain crowd, and Hinds caught the mood as well, cracking a Lee long-hop to the point boundary, before pulling McGrath through midwicket. They were urgent between the wickets as well, although a fraction over-eager on one occasion, when Hinds narrowly beat a Lee direct-hit after being sent back by Lara.

Eventually though, Andy Bichel's golden arm made the breakthrough. He had been clattered for six fours in his first three overs, but returned for a second spell to pick up Hinds and Lara in consecutive overs - Lara for the seventh time in the tour. But some sensible accumulation from Ramnaresh Sarwan kept West Indies grinding towards an ominous total. He added 71 for the fourth wicket with Marlon Samuels, who kept his attacking instincts in check while at the same time cracking five loose deliveries for emphatic boundaries. Ricardo Powell completed a successful team effort with an unbeaten 20 from 13 balls.

Australia had not successfully chased a total of this magnitude for more than a year, and they were quickly pinned back by Corey Collymore and Merv Dillon, who grabbed the crucial wickets of Adam Gilchrist and Ricky Ponting. Gilchrist lasted just 13 balls, carelessly lofting Collymore straight down the throat of Wavell Hinds at deep-midwicket for 11 (18 for 1), and though Ponting started confidently, he soon flicked a good-length ball from Dillon straight to Hinds at square leg (57 for 3). Collymore also dealt with Jimmy Maher, standing in for Matthew Hayden, thanks to a brilliant catch by Ryan Hurley, who dived forward from mid-on and damaged his shoulder in the process.

Symonds and Michael Clarke did their bit to salvage the situation with a well-paced 92-run partnership for the fourth wicket. Clarke had walloped an unbeaten 55 from 40 balls in Saturday's victory, and picked up where he left off by smashing Gayle for a first-ball four through long-on. But Lara's response was unorthodox in the extreme, as he turned to the legspin of Sarwan, who had previously bowled just three overs in one-day cricket. Sarwan dropped in the odd loose delivery, but his big-spinning leg-stump line proved difficult to get away. Clarke, forever giving himself room, cracked three fours in his 39, but when Dillon returned to the attack, Lara leapt high at mid-on to cling onto a well-middled swipe (149 for 4).

Australia's hopes now rested on the magnificent form of Symonds, and the ultimate finishing skills of Michael Bevan. Symonds played a delightful innings, mixing his natural power with a series of deft glides and late cuts as the spinners continued to bowl a tight line. But he eventually misjudged another dab off Samuels, and deflected the ball onto his stumps for 77. Ian Harvey quickly followed, bowled by Gayle for 2, and the contest had been over for some time when Bevan was given out by the third umpire, caught at gully off Dillon for 31. With 55 runs needed from the final over, Lara bowed to popular demand and brought himself on to bowl, as Australia's winning streak came to an end.