In-form Australia aim to pass strong Caribbean test
September 22, 2012
Start time 1930 local (1400 GMT)
Australia and West Indies entered this tournament with vastly different expectations placed upon them. Although the Australians were quietly confident, plenty of people saw their form, ranking and not-so-settled side as an indication they would struggle. West Indies came in as one of the tournament favourites, the first time in a long while that they have been considered such a strong chance. Australia have already overcome Ireland and should West Indies do so as well, both these sides will progress to the next stage. But West Indies don't want to be placing themselves under any unnecessary pressure when they take on Ireland so victory in this, their first match, is important. Not that Australia will be a pushover - the teams drew 1-1 when they met for two T20s in the Caribbean earlier this year.
Everywhere you look in the West Indies line-up there are men seemingly made for T20. Chris Gayle at the top of the order. Kieron Pollard in the middle. Dwayne Bravo, Darren Sammy and Andre Russell. The best player in the IPL this year, the offspinner Sunil Narine. And the highly under-rated legspinner Samuel Badree, who has the best economy rate of any bowler in T20 history (with a minimum qualification of 300 balls). Badree goes for 4.59 an over, on average. If every bowler in a team managed that, the opposition wouldn't even rack up a hundred. But for all of their star power, West Indies haven't really turned their potential into results. In the past year, they have won four T20s and lost four. Overall, they are the only ICC Full Member besides Bangladesh to have lost more T20s than they have won. Much greater consistency is what they will require to go all the way in this tournament.
For Australia, the opening victory against Ireland has provided a handy bit of breathing space and they know that victory against West Indies will put them through to the Super Eights. There have been minor health worries for the veteran spinner Brad Hogg and the fast bowler Mitchell Starc over the past couple of days, but both are still in contention to take their places against West Indies.
Form guide (completed matches, most recent first)
West Indies WWLWL
Watch out for
On the ICC's rankings for T20 international allrounders, it is Shane Watson and then daylight. Against Ireland on Wednesday he showed why, with 3 for 26 and 51 from 30 deliveries, ensuring there were no nasty surprises for the Australians in their opening game. Notably, he also made important contributions in both T20s against West Indies earlier this year in the Caribbean, and his 69 in the first match was the highest score in the two-game series.
Australia are aware of their potential weakness against high-class spinners with hard-to-read variations - Saeed Ajmal showed that in the UAE recently - and Sunil Narine fits that category. He baffled the Australians during the ODIs in the West Indies earlier this year, although they managed to survive against him in the T20s that followed. Australia's coach Mickey Arthur believes attacking Narine might be the best approach. "He's always going to be a factor, like Ajmal for Pakistan and [Ajantha] Mendis for Sri Lanka," Arthur said. "I think if we can put him under just a little bit of pressure, that's something we haven't been able to do with the spinners, we've always been a couple of wickets down, so we haven't been able to attack Ajmal, or Narine in the West Indies where it turned massively."
Australia had a couple of minor concerns in the lead-up to the match, with the veteran spinner Brad Hogg having missed training on Thursday due to a headache and flu-like symptoms, while Mitchell Starc also sat out due to gastro. Xavier Doherty has rejoined the squad having made a quick dash home to be at the birth of his child, while Clint McKay and Ben Hilfenhaus are the backup fast men in the squad. However, the captain George Bailey on Thursday played down the possibility of Starc and Hogg missing the match.
"They're all right," Bailey said. "Training is quiet without Hoggy, [but] he's pretty good and from all reports Starcy was certainly on the mend. We'll make a call."
Australia (possible) 1 David Warner, 2 Shane Watson, 3 Michael Hussey, 4 George Bailey (capt), 5 Cameron White, 6 Glenn Maxwell, 7 Matthew Wade (wk), 8 Daniel Christian, 9 Pat Cummins, 10 Mitchell Starc, 11 Brad Hogg/Xavier Doherty.
The West Indies selectors have plenty of options and their final decision will depend on how they believe the side should be balanced. Dwayne Smith and Chris Gayle appear likely to open and there is the possibility of a dual spin attack with Narine and Badree likely to enjoy working on the pitches in Sri Lanka.
West Indies (squad) Chris Gayle, Dwayne Smith, Lendl Simmons, Johnson Charles, Darren Bravo, Marlon Samuels, Dwayne Bravo, Kieron Pollard, Darren Sammy (capt), Denesh Ramdin, Andre Russell, Samuel Badree, Ravi Rampaul, Sunil Narine, Fidel Edwards.
Pitch and conditions
The pitch at the Premadasa was hard on the opening day of matches there on Wednesday, and there were runs available for the batsmen. It is expected to remain reasonably hard for the early stages of the tournament.
Stats and trivia
- West Indies could find themselves a little rusty if they are forced to chase in this match, for they have batted first in their past eight T20 internationals. The last time they chased was against India in Trinidad last year, the only time in the past two years West Indies have batted second
- Chris Gayle's strike rate of 153.47 in the World T20 is the highest amongst players who have batted at least ten World T20 innings
"It's good to come into the tournament and have people show us the kind of respect and admiration to rate us among the top teams."
West Indies allrounder Dwayne Bravo
"They are one of the best fielding sides around in the world and that counts for a lot in T20."
George Bailey on one of West Indies' strengths
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here