Marsh sets up 84-run win for Australia
Shaun Marsh made the second-highest score by an Australian one-day international debutant to set up a convincing 84-run victory in the first ODI in St Vincent. Marsh top scored with 81 as Australia reached a challenging 273 for 8 and an excellent new-ball spell from Brett Lee all but extinguished West Indies' chase before Nathan Bracken cleaned up the tail to finish with four wickets.
After a Test series in which few days were completely dominated by either team, this was one occasion when virtually nothing went right for West Indies. They did start on a positive note by winning the toss but Chris Gayle's decision to send Australia in immediately backfired and their game went downhill from there.
The one-sided contest was set up by Marsh, who was the leading run scorer in the Indian Premier League and was keen to prove that his batting style worked equally well in the 50-over version. As he did in the IPL, Marsh rarely took a risk but rather drove with impressive power and cut and pulled when the bowlers dropped short.
Marsh is auditioning to become Matthew Hayden's permanent opening partner in ODIs and with David Boon, one of the national selectors and the former top-order colleague of Marsh's father Geoff, watching on, it was a perfect time to fire. He fell 13 short of the highest debut ODI score by an Australian, set by another potential one-day opener, Phil Jaques, but Marsh's effort gave Australia a promising glimpse at their limited-overs future.
West Indies were also trying out some fresh faces in their batting line-up, although the circumstances of chasing a big total made their job tough. When West Indies fell to 29 for 3 it was even harder. A slight recovery came via Dwayne Bravo (33) and the debutant Andre Fletcher, who put on a 51-run stand, but both men fell before the halfway mark.
Fletcher's 26 ended with an embarrassing lapse in concentration when Brad Haddin smartly flicked the ball onto the stumps with Fletcher casually strolling out of his ground. The third-gamer Kieron Pollard was soon out for 11 and despite a 52-run partnership from Denesh Ramdin and Darren Sammy, the task was too tall. The finish was delayed as the crowd threw bottles and rubbish onto the ground after Sammy was correctly given out bowled to a delivery that clipped off stump then bounced off Haddin's pads, but eventually Bracken completed the job. He finished with 4 for 31, grabbing the final three wickets and making a strong return in his first major match since having knee surgery in March.
West Indies' problems started when some extra bounce from Lee did for Xavier Marshall, who was caught behind trying to drive off the back foot, and Ramnaresh Sarwan, who got a leading edge to second slip trying to flick through leg. It was a difficult pitch for the batsmen to pick up the pace, as some short balls held up considerably, but Lee made the most of it by mixing up his deliveries yet always making the batsmen play. Gayle tried to go after Bracken but was lbw for 20, and from there it always looked like Australia's game.
The contrast between the two batting line-ups was stark. Marsh and Shane Watson got Australia away to a perfect start with a brisk 75-run opening stand during which they were rarely threatened. Watson's 31 from 27 deliveries ended when he walked across his stumps and was lbw to Dwayne Bravo and although Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke fell cheaply, Marsh was able to navigate Australia through without any serious damage.
Marsh's perfectly-timed drives were the standout feature of his innings. He was away in the first over with a straight-driven four off Jerome Taylor and brought up his half-century from 55 balls with a typical cover-driven boundary off Bravo. But the challenge for West Indies was if they dropped short to stop Marsh getting on the front foot, he deflected behind the wicket with ease, also cutting hard and high over third man and pulling Bravo for a flat six to square leg. Shortly after breaking a 15-over boundary drought for Australia, Marsh fell when he drove a Sammy slower ball to cover.
It denied him the chance to become the fifth man to score an ODI century on debut but Marsh had done what was required of him. His solid platform allowed Michael Hussey and Haddin to gradually build an important 91-run partnership that pushed Australia well into the sort of territory that West Indies would find daunting. Hussey was scratchy in making 44, scoring only one boundary, but he turned the strike over effectively so that Haddin could cut loose.
Haddin's 50, his fourth half-century in one-day internationals, featured some powerful slog-sweeps and a couple of impressive shots picked up and lofted over midwicket from outside off against Sammy, including one that went for six. It ensured a big total for Australia on a ground where, in 16 previous ODIs, only two teams had posted more than 250 batting first. It also meant a 1-0 series lead for Australia but as they were no doubt reminded every time they looked down at the pink ribbons they were wearing in memory of Jane McGrath, cricket is only a game.
Brydon Coverdale is a staff writer at Cricinfo