Australia 4 for 301 (Martyn 95, Ponting 78, Clarke 66) beat West Indies 185 (Lara 58, Hogg 5-32) by 116 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball commentary
Brett Lee destroyed West Indies with a stunning opening spell and Brad Hogg finished off the lower order as Australia dominated the opening VB Series match with a fine allround performance at the MCG. Following a brilliant unbeaten 95 from Damien Martyn, Lee struck three times in a stunning blitz as West Indies flapped at 4 for 33, and Hogg secured the 116-run victory and a bonus point with his second five-wicket haul in ODIs.
Brian Lara, who settled things for a while, and his deputy Shivnarine Chanderpaul kept looking for a miracle in a 98-run partnership, but their improvements were purely cosmetic. Hogg removed both of them in three overs - Lara drove to Andrew Symonds at cover and Chanderpaul hit hard back to the bowler - before spinning through the tail.
Hogg's career-best figures of 5 for 32 came in a week when Shane Warne was encouraged to return to the team, and built on an impressive batting display and a scary spell from Lee. Unable to get into the Test side, Lee has spent most of the summer running drinks, and the West Indians must have wished he had stayed there.
Lee's pace topped 150kph during his six-over spell with the new ball, and left his opponents with no hope of reaching the target of 302. Chris Gayle was trapped in front by Lee's third delivery, though the ball appeared to be swinging down the leg side, Wavell Hinds foolishly risked a single to Andrew Symonds, and Ramnaresh Sarwan was unsure whether to play or leave when rushed into a stroke. The result was a regulation catch to Adam Gilchrist (3 for 21).
Xavier Marshall, the 18-year-old on debut, walked out to the daunting task of facing an excited Lee, and managed a composed single off his first ball, but four runs later Lee forced another nick. The situation could have been worse if Gilchrist had pouched a chance offered by Lara off Lee, while Ricky Ponting gave Chanderpaul a life in the 15th over off Michael Kasprowicz. Neither lapse mattered in the end, but Australia's fallible catching is threatening to become more than an irritation.
There was nothing much to worry Australia's batting, though. Martyn provided the late-order style to a brilliant beginning and narrowly missed a deserved century. Australia expected a 300-plus total after the early biff from Michael Clarke and Ricky Ponting, and Martyn made sure they made it despite batting becoming harder as the ball got softer.
West Indies' slow bowlers managed to restrict the run-rate through the 30-over period after they had leaked almost six an over while Clarke was at the crease, but more profligate bowling at the death gave the innings a slightly symmetrical feel. Martyn paced his innings superbly, finishing the innings with a flurry of boundaries and a total of six fours and a six. His only misjudgement was to leave himself needing seven runs from the final over.
Ponting, who won the toss and batted on a friendly pitch, also appeared set for a second century in a week - he made 115 in the World Cricket Tsunami Appeal game on Monday - as he breezed to fifty from as many balls. Joining Clarke in an entertaining early spree, Ponting swung a six that would have impressed Viv Richards as it cleared the square-leg fence on Australia's biggest ground. But his fatal mistake was to attempt a second run to Gayle at fine leg (3 for 207).
Australia galloped away in the early stages, but their blazing had nothing to do with the usual dominators Gilchrist or Matthew Hayden. Clarke emerged as the makeshift opener while Hayden was rested, and Gilchrist went for a duck to a brilliant diving catch from Dwayne Bravo at midwicket (1 for 4).
Clarke stormed out after asking Ponting for a promotion in the absence of Hayden and Simon Katich, who was ruled out with a throat infection. Ponting was at the other end to see the move pay off as Clarke reached his fifth one-day half-century, which came off 53 balls. He was finally bowled attempting a late cut off Marlon Samuels, but by then he had already laid an excellent platform, which the rest of the batsmen, especially Martyn, capitalised on.
Peter English is the Australasian editor of Cricinfo.