Captain Clarke wriggles out of trouble
Michael Clarke is never shy to dash over to Ricky Ponting in the field with a fresh idea but in his first one-day international as captain, Clarke gained a new appreciation for the pressure Ponting faces. With three overs remaining, West Indies needed 13 with six wickets in hand and Clarke required several miracles.
The first came when Brett Lee sent down a stunning over that brought 1 for 1. The second occurred when Nathan Bracken bowled Shivnarine Chanderpaul for 53 from the last ball of the penultimate over, five deliveries after Clarke himself made an uncharacteristic misfield as the tension mounted.
The final piece clicked when Shane Watson kept the batsmen to singles in the 50th over when they needed eight runs to win. When Darren Sammy drove the last delivery to mid off, Clarke curled his clammy hands around the ball and ran in to the stumps at the bowler's end to ensure a one-run victory in his first match as ODI captain. His first comment after the game was: "Ricky can have it back."
The win means Clarke has a 100% success rate in charge of Australia after leading the team to victories in two Twenty20 internationals during the Australian summer. This time he was guiding a relatively inexperienced team that featured the debutant David Hussey, and third- and fourth-gamers in Luke Ronchi and Shaun Marsh.
Hussey contributed an important 50, while Marsh was Man of the Match in the opening game and Ronchi has been outstanding behind the stumps as Australia built their 4-0 series lead. Clarke said the success of the new faces was one of the most pleasing aspects of Australia's enjoyable trip.
"It was obviously going to be a tough tour to see how some new young guys went but they've certainly stood up," Clarke said. "The Test series was fantastic and we're obviously showing in the one-dayers that there's a lot of class back home playing first-class cricket."
However, it was one of Australia's most reliable old hands, Andrew Symonds, who set up the win with his 87 and earned the Man of the Match award. Similarly, West Indies counted on two of their most experienced men, Chris Gayle and Ramnaresh Sarwan, as they launched a chase that was well on track at the halfway mark.
But the loss of Gayle, who skied a catch for 92 when he unnecessarily tried to go over the top off Watson, proved to be an important moment. After West Indies' previous loss Gayle had harsh words for his middle-order batsmen but on this occasion he knew he had to take responsibility for the disappointing finish.
"I thought myself and Sarwan really set the foundation," Gayle said. "The manner in which I got out as well, I was very disappointed. I really take the blame for that, I should have carried on and get a hundred and see the team home."
West Indies' coach John Dyson said it was disappointing but not necessarily surprising that the world champions Australia prevailed in the tense finale. "Players do feel pressure and when they're in these sort of situations," Dyson said.
"Experience is a great thing to have behind you, you see Australia in a pressure situation when they are used to winning and they stay as calm as calm can be. Perhaps because our guys, because they are not used to winning, feel the pressure more."