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June 27, 2008
Michael Hussey and Michael Clarke showed West Indies how to apply themselves on a difficult pitch but their hosts ignored the lesson and threw away wickets when the going got tough, handing Australia a comprehensive 63-run Duckworth/Lewis win. When the rain came after 27 overs West Indies' hopes were already dashed and at the resumption they needed a ridiculous 146 more off 14 overs, ensuring Australia took a 2-0 series lead.
The victory came because of two men. On a surface that was sluggish and offered tricky seam movement, Hussey and Clarke compiled a restrained and at times soporific century partnership that allowed Australia to reach 213 for 5 after they had wobbled to 35 for 3. West Indies fell to an almost identical 41 for 3 in the chase but whereas Hussey and Clarke went into Test mode and focused on batting out the overs, West Indies' middle order showed as much patience as a hand grenade.
Australia's attack adopted a stump-to-stump style that suited the conditions and while Shivnarine Chanderpaul displayed his customary resolve, his partners exhibited no such commonsense. Dwayne Bravo had 3 from 21 deliveries when he was frustrated into lofting Shane Watson's slower ball to Hussey at deep midwicket and West Indies were 49 for 4.
Patrick Browne was equally unable to find the gaps and with 1 from 18 balls he edged Clarke to first slip, where Cameron White took a superb diving chance on the second grab. If the situation was not dire enough, Kieron Pollard came in and from his second ball played the worst shot of the lot. In a situation that required a slow and steady consolidation, Pollard went over the top and lobbed Clarke straight down the throat of Watson at long off, much to the frustration of his older, wiser partner.
At the time Chanderpaul had worked hard for 13 from 42 deliveries and when rain halted play one over later, it at least delayed the embarrassment for West Indies. Their revised target, 204 runs from 41 overs, was unattainable and Chanderpaul finished unbeaten on 45 while Clarke ended up with 3 for 26. If little went right for West Indies in the first ODI in St Vincent, there were even fewer positives in Grenada.
Their chase got away to the worst possible start when Brett Lee found Xavier Marshall's edge from the first delivery of the innings. The ball flew low and to the right of Luke Ronchi, who made a good take to give him the perfect introduction behind the stumps in his first ODI. Lee was once again in fine form, seaming the ball effectively and often beating the bat of both Andre Fletcher and Chris Gayle.
A watchful Gayle did not get off the mark until his 13th ball and although a calm and composed innings was required, the captain set a poor example for his troops by miscuing an attempted pull off Mitchell Johnson to Ricky Ponting at mid off. It was a disappointing shot selection, though not as bad as that of Fletcher, who tried to pull a James Hopes delivery that was far too full, and lost his off stump.
The difference between their approach and that of Australia could not have been more stark. Clarke and Hussey knew that after a shaky start - Jerome Taylor and Daren Powell jagged the ball around early and picked up three handy wickets - runs were not their immediate concern. Accordingly, they added only eight runs in the first ten overs of their partnership. Until Clarke drove Darren Sammy back down the ground in the 26th over, there had been no boundaries for 104 deliveries. But Clarke and Hussey are both smart runners between the wickets and they were largely responsible for the fact that 94 of Australia's 213 runs came in singles.
Plenty of comfortable ones and twos were on offer when the spinners operated and if runs weren't exactly leaking there was at least a nagging drip that Gayle needed to deal with. He was not helped by his fielders, who seemed to switch off after the early enthusiasm. Browne was sloppy behind the stumps and Bravo made a meal of what should have been a catch at first slip when Clarke was on 30 and facing Sulieman Benn. Bravo inexplicably moved right, trying to anticipate the cut shot rather than watching the ball, and he failed to get a hand on one that would have gone straight to him had he stayed still.
It was a costly mistake as Clarke went on to sweep and cut a few boundaries in his half-century, which came off 87 deliveries. He eventually fell for 56, struck in line by a straighter Benn ball that he was trying to work through midwicket as Australia gradually tried to lift their rate. Hussey picked up the pace with a six swept over midwicket off Benn and, appropriately given the hard grind for most of his innings, brought up his half-century with a thick edge that flew away for four to third man.
When Hussey holed out to long on for 62 from 105 deliveries his job was done. He had set a solid platform so the lower order could attack and White finished unbeaten on 40 from 39 balls while Hopes added a run-a-ball 17. The allrounders, who might have been under undue pressure had they come in earlier, had an easy task after the Clarke and Hussey partnership, which was worth 100 off 29 overs.
It also gave Ponting, in his 300th ODI, some justification after choosing to bat on a pitch with some moisture. His run of big milestone innings ended when he chipped a catch to short midwicket for 13, out to Taylor for the fifth time in his past six international innings. Australia had already lost Shaun Marsh and Watson, who waited 15 minutes for the first over due to yet another tedious sightscreen fault that did little for West Indies' image after a similar ridiculously long wait in Barbados. In the end it was a batting malfunction that really damaged West Indies' reputation.
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