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March 20, 2012
Australia 220 (M Hussey 67, Bailey 59, Narine 3-32) tied with West Indies 220 (Charles 45, Watson 3-30)
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Any lingering thoughts of a Caribbean holiday were swept decisively away from Australia by a thrilling and courageous West Indies chase to force a dramatic tie at a heaving Arnos Vale Ground. Tuesday had been declared a public holiday in St Vincent and a sold-out crowd was kept on its feet throughout as the two sides finished locked on 220 apiece on a pitch almost as lively for spin bowling as for dancing at the boundary's edge.
The West Indies needed only one run from the final three deliveries to be bowled by Brett Lee, but a mix-up between the captain Darren Sammy and the last man Kemar Roach saw both stranded at the striker's end as Lee broke the stumps at his. However, the hosts' fight to level the scores having been mired as deeply as 78 for 5 will provide plenty of belief for Sammy's men, while also showing Australia's players that they cannot afford to misstep quite so badly as they have done at times in the three matches so far.
This time the fault lay with the batsmen, who squandered the best of the conditions and failed completely to cope with the crafty spin of Sunil Narine. But there was also a cautionary note for the stand-in captain Shane Watson, who spoiled an otherwise admirable bowling stint with a no-ball that reprieved Andre Russell at a critical time. Watson fumed over the episode and may need to calm himself more rapidly on future captaincy assignments, not least on this tour.
Having built a sound platform to chase the 221 required at 52 for 1, the hosts lost four wickets for 26 as Xavier Doherty and Watson cut through the batting with a combination of spin, changes of pace and alert field placement. However a series of doughty contributions from Johnson Charles, Kieron Pollard, Russell and Carlton Baugh brought the West Indies to the brink, and Sammy would have taken his side home without a moment of running impulse from Roach.
In front of a teeming Kingstown gathering that caused a long trail of morning traffic to the ground, the Australians had been briefly delighted to find a pitch offering more pace than had been found in either of the first two fixtures here. However, they lost their previous enthusiasm when the offspinner Narine used it, along with the sharp spin that had been on offer all week, to cause considerable torment.
George Bailey, promoted to No. 4, and Michael Hussey provided some measure of stability to the innings, from an uncertain 58 for 3, but neither batsman could quite attain command of the bowling. Hussey's dismissal signalled another flurry of wickets, this time the giddy loss of five for six runs. Marlon Samuels and Roach both contributed with clever spells, but it was Narine's deception of the touring batsmen that was most complete, their muddle exemplified by two run-outs in the slipstream of Narine overs.
When West Indies chased, Charles and Kieran Powell enjoyed a more fruitful stand than their one-ball effort in the second ODI, and Watson had to introduce Doherty's spin in the seventh over as he sought a wicket. Powell hammered Doherty over the wide long-on rope, but next ball the spinner took revenge by running a delivery across the opener to draw a clear stumping for Matthew Wade.
Watson used a slower ball to tunnel through Samuels' defence, and in the same over Darren Bravo was confounded by a delivery that disturbed the surface and sent his drive straight to Bailey at short cover. A similar dismissal accounted for Charles, though he could have fewer queries about how the ball had reached him off the pitch, and Doherty used another straighter variation to cramp Dwayne Bravo's attempt to cut and coax an edge into Wade's gloves.
Pollard had seen the West Indies home on Sunday, but had a far sterner task ahead of him this time. For a while he delighted team-mates and spectators, sending one mighty swipe at Lee clean out of the ground. To rid him of this threat, Watson called on Nathan Lyon, Pollard's sometime compatriot in Australia's domestic Twenty20 competition.
As he has done before, Lyon was not afraid to sacrifice a six in search of a wicket: Pollard cleared Doherty at long-on once, but found him when attempting to repeat the stroke two balls later. Russell maintained the fight in the company of Baugh, smiting a rival to Pollard's earlier six when he crashed Clint McKay down the ground and beyond it.
The required rate crept up gradually, aided by Watson's thrift, and when Russell was bowled attempting an impatient heave the game appeared up. However replays showed that Watson had overstepped, and Russell's rearguard went on. As if to frustrate Watson further, Russell was also to be bowled by the resulting free-hit.
As he and Doherty had almost exhausted their overs, Watson called on McKay to probe for the clinching wickets. As the crowd clung to rum-fuelled visions of victory, he seemed to do just that: first teasing an edge out of Russell that Wade dived to claim, then prompting Baugh to send an attempted flick skyward for Daniel Christian to pouch.
Not willing to give up, Narine hit out boldly to reduce the requirement, and Sammy showed the sort of composure he is beginning to make a habit of. However Roach ran on the third-last ball as though it was the last, and Australia salvaged something.
Having won the toss, Watson had expected a similar surface to those previously encountered in Kingstown, but noted more evidence of dryness. In the first few overs he and David Warner timed the ball more successfully than at any stage of the first two games, and it was with the score a promising 33 for 0 that Sammy called on Narine. His first over saw the ball popping and spinning far more excitedly than the batsmen were expecting, and Watson's response in the next over was to chase a tight single that became fatal when Russell threw the stumps down.
The wicketkeeper Wade, back to No. 3 in the shuffle that had Peter Forrest dropped to make room for Lyon's spin, struggled mightily in his brief time against Narine, also narrowly avoiding a run-out. Shuffling too far across his crease, it was no great surprise when Narine spun a delivery around Wade's pads to bowl him for a fretful 2 from 11 balls. Narine's analysis told a tale of bewitchment: 5-1-5-1.
Bailey and Hussey were vigilant as they built a significant union, tallying 112 before they were separated by Samuels. His role in the dismissal was more technical than practical, a short ball pulled venomously by Bailey - he had just struck a compelling straight six - straight into the hands of Bravo behind square leg. Bailey cursed his exit, just at the moment when it seemed Australia had wrested the advantage, and they would prove to be prescient oaths.
Michael Hussey misread Samuels' length and turn to be stumped by a distance. Next over David Hussey was deceived completely by Roach's perfectly pitched slower ball and bowled, and after a first-up wide Brett Lee fell to the same variation, this time dragging a shorter offering onto his stumps. The innings had lost its way; it so very nearly cost the match.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets hereFeeds: Daniel Brettig
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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Plays of the Day from the second ODI between England and India, in Cardiff
Plays of the day from the third ODI between England and India at Trent Bridge
Plays of the day from the tri-series match between Zimbabwe and South Africa
Would he have fared better than the incumbent middle-order batsmen, Root and Ballance?