Hinds leads Windies to glory
West Indies 254 for 7 (Hinds 125*, Sarwan 50) beat Australia 252 (Gilchrist 64, Lehmann 43) by three wickets
Back to winning ways: Chris Gayle and Marlon Samuels celebrate as West Indies head towards another victory
As is his habit, Hinds was virtually anonymous in the early part of his innings. At first, he looked on impassively from the non-striker's end as Brett Lee and Chris Gayle indulged in a magnificent duel, which involved three fizzing off-side boundaries, a cartwheeling off stump from a no-ball, and eventually a ferocious throat-ball that Gayle nudged to Gilchrist behind the stumps (23 for 1).
But, after taking 13 overs to reach double-figures, Hinds exploded into action, belting Bichel mightily over long-on for the first of six sixes. The aerial route seemed the best option on this pitch - by contrast, Brian Lara endured a frustrating innings of 15, repeatedly hitting the ring of fielders on the off side, before giving himself room and miscuing a return catch to Andrew Symonds, (67 for 2).
Ramnaresh Sarwan proved sturdier company, reaching his first half-century of the series in adding 114 for the third wicket. Hinds reached his own half-century in sheepish fashion, clubbing Brad Hogg for six straight through the hands of Lee at long-on. But his confidence was undaunted, and six overs later, Nathan Hauritz received the same treatment, only better executed. Hauritz was soon driven from the attack, via a Sarwan four through midwicket and yet another Hinds six over long-on, but Lee's return once again changed the picture.
His first delivery was in the slot, but Sarwan's footwork wasn't quite up to the task, and Symonds took a fine low catch at short cover. Two balls later, Marlon Samuels had his stumps shattered by Lee's trademark inswinging yorker, and at 181 for 4 with ten overs remaining, Australia had eased into a position to strike.
Ponting turned to Darren Lehmann's offspin to complement the pace of Lee, but Hinds deposited him over long on, only for Ricardo Powell to ruin the effect with a tame return chip in the same over (193 for 5). And when Ridley Jacobs swung wildly at Bichel for Jimmy Maher to pouch a swirling chance at fine-leg, Hinds was fast running out of partners. His response was emphatic - Gillespie was hoisted for six, this time over long-off, and when Lee was belted through midwicket for four, Australia were all but beaten. The end was appropriate - Gilchrist, whose keeping had been ragged all day, conceded four byes off Lee.
Australia's total of 252 had been an equally stop-start affair, which owed everything to a pair of buccaneering knocks from Gilchrist at the top of the order, and Bichel at the bottom. Gilchrist had added 90 for the first wicket with Matthew Hayden, but when Hayden hoisted Corey Collymore to Hinds on the midwicket boundary, the rot set in. Three overs later, Ponting was run out by Lara for 2 (105 for 2), and Lara was back in the action for the very next delivery, a good-length ball which Gilchrist slapped straight to point (105 for 3).
Darren Lehmann and Andrew Symonds repaired the damage with a sedate partnership of 44, but the spin duo of Gayle and Marlon Samuels stymied the runs in the middle overs, picking up four more wickets between them. Bichel, as ever, was in no mood to capitulate, lamping 17 runs off an over from Ramnaresh Sarwan, including a lost-ball six over long-off. But it would have been a travesty if Australia had pulled this one out of the fire. They lacked intensity throughout, and after their exertions over the last six months, they will be hard-pressed to raise their game one last time on Sunday.