Dynamic Marshall drives Windies win
A breathtaking display from Xavier Marshall, who hammered 36 from 15 balls, set up a seven-wicket victory for West Indies as they got home with 11 balls to spare. Marshall, playing his first Twenty20 international, overshadowed the strong efforts of a string of other debutants including Australia's openers Luke Ronchi and Shaun Marsh, as the Kensington Oval spectators got their money's worth despite the match being reduced to 11 overs a side.
After Ronchi and Marsh set up what looked like a challenging target of 98, Marshall provided the sort of batting heroics West Indies fans have been deprived of in recent years. Twenty-five came off the second over of the chase, from Mitchell Johnson, the highlight of which was a monstrous Marshall six over midwicket that hit the roof of the Greenidge and Haynes Stand.
He had help from the first-gamer William Perkins, who audaciously went down on one knee to paddle Brett Lee over the wicketkeeper's head for four, perhaps unaware of the bloodied chin Mal Loye once sustained trying to slog-sweep Lee. But Perkins could not keep up with Marshall, whose clean striking was up there with the most powerful one-day hitters.
The signs were there from the first ball of the innings, when Marshall pulled a short Lee ball over square leg for six. By the time he had cracked a couple of fours off Lee's second over West Indies, remarkably, needed 47 from 48 deliveries and it was their game to lose.
For a while it looked like they might do just that. Marshall could not bear to see a dot ball and was unnecessarily run out when Shane Watson collected off his own bowling and threw down the stumps at the striker's end, and Perkins was caught short in the next over. When Denesh Ramdin holed out to deep mid-off from Watson's bowling it left West Indies at 64 for 3 and gave Australia a glimmer of hope.
Those hopes were dashed when the acting captain Dwayne Bravo's 15-ball 28 got his team home, sealing the win with a six powered over midwicket off Watson. The match finished in near darkness, vaguely reminiscent of the World Cup final at the same venue, but this time Australia were not cheering.
Despite the loss, there were some positive signs for Australia, who tested a number of relatively new faces. Ronchi and Marsh opened the batting and quickly showed why they are viewed as men to watch in Australia's limited-overs future. Marsh took nine off Jerome Taylor in the first over, including a sweetly struck drive straight back over the bowler's head for six.
Ronchi had even more fun in Taylor's next over, backing away and slamming a six over backward point before following with powerful fours over cover and long-on. It was an exciting start, and Bravo contributed to the boundaries by apparently not realising the first Powerpaly had finished after three overs, keeping the field in unnecessarily for the fourth.
Bravo had shown some nous by opening with Sulieman Benn, whose spin forced Marsh and Ronchi to create the pace. In response, Ronchi slapped fours contemptuously on both sides of the wicket against Benn but his exciting innings ended on 36 from 22 balls when he gave another debutant, Kemar Roach, his first wicket thanks to a catch at long-off from Taylor.
It was a positive comeback after Roach began his international career with an ugly beamer that Marsh did well to get some bat on. Marsh crashed a huge six over long-on against Roach but then handed him his second wicket when his pull was brilliantly taken by Marshall, who jumped back on the midwicket boundary and then shimmied around the rope like a dancer to avoid conceding a six.
Batting for the first time in a Twenty20 international, David Hussey skied a catch for a second-ball duck before Watson and Cameron White completed the target-setting. It was hard to know what would be an appropriate score, given that it was the biggest reduction to both innings ever seen in a Twenty20 international.
The start was delayed by two hours and 25 minutes as persistent rain fell over Kensington Oval and it was beginning to look like the first Twenty20 international to be held in the Caribbean would not be held after all. In the end, the crowd got to see nearly two hours of relentless entertainment and, importantly, a home-team victory.
Brydon Coverdale is a staff writer at Cricinfo