The colour of the ball, sightscreen and clothing all changed and, half-way through, so did the weather. The West Indies' cricket didn't and they were beaten by Australia just as badly in the first match of the triangular Carlton Series of One-Day Internationals at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) last night as they were in the five Tests earlier.
In heat that touched 39 degrees Celsius before a cool change dropped it 10 degrees in an hour, they bowled inconsistently, batted without purpose, fielded shoddily and missed five catches. The World Cup champions were virtually flawless in completing victory by 74 runs. The margin was even wider than it appeared. Batting under lights after the thermometer dipped, the West Indies were basically out of contention when Brian Lara was third out in the 19th over for 28. They were then 57 for three and never threatened to overhaul Australia's 267 for six after that.
Marlon Samuels batted with the poise he showed in his three Tests to topscore with 57 from 96 balls. But, aged 19 and in his second One-Day International, his mission was simply damage limitation.
He arrived in the sixth over after openers Wavell Hinds, caught in the gully, and Sherwin Campbell, taken at third man, had both been despatched with only nine scored. Lara was dismissed by medium-pacer Ian Harvey just when a stand with Samuels seemed to be developing, wicket-keeper Adam Gilchrist snaring his edge as he did so often in the Test series. Ricardo Powell lasted 27 precarious balls for 12 before lobbing a catch to mid-on from off-spinner Andrew Symonds and, for the next 14.2 overs, Samuels and Ridley Jacobs batted aimlessly in adding 49.
Once local favourite, Shane Warne, ended his spell of 10 overs in his first international of the season, the crowd of over 50 000 took to amusing itself with Mexican waves and the antics of three pitch invaders as the cricket became meaningless.
Symmonds briefly drew their attention back to the middle by dismissing Jacobs, Samuels and Mahendra Nagamootoo with the first, fourth and fifth balls of the 41st over. Captain Jimmy Adams, demoting himself to No. 8, and Laurie Williams batted out the overs in an unbroken partnership of 54 but it meant nothing to patrons who were streaming out of the MCG long before the last ball was bowled.
Australia's total was based on a second-wicket partnership of 111 in 22.2 overs between Mark Waugh and Ricky Ponting after Nixon McClean's well-judged, running catch at third man accounted for Adam Gilchrist off Cameron Cuffy in the third over.
Waugh hoisted Cuffy for six 10 rows back into the seats in the Member's Stand and had just passed 50 when he fell to another fine catch. He hoisted Laurie Williams and Hinds, moving in from long-on, ended the stand.
The West Indies claimed the valuable wickets of the dangerous Michael Bevan, Ponting and captain Steve Waugh while limiting the scoring to 49 between the 31st and 42nd overs. Ponting, let off by Williams on a straightforward catch in the deep when 32, fell to a sensational take by Powell, sprinting in from deep square-leg and diving forward. Captain Waugh, in his 300th One-Day International, holed out to longoff from Samuels who, along with Nagamootoo, sent down his full complement for ten overs of spin.
At 193 for five in the 42nd over, the West Indies had chances to limit Australia to under 250. They blew them as Powell and Williams both dropped Symmonds, who added 74 off 52 balls with Martyn.
Williams fell back so heavily on his head in muffing his chance at point, he had to leave the field for attention, adding injury to insult. The last ten overs yielded 83, the last two brought 26, the last, from McLean, 15. It carried Australia to a total that required better batting than the West Indies have shown all season and they never looked like getting close.
Australia play the third team in the tournament, Zimbabwe, at the Gabba in Brisbane tomorrow and meet the West Indies again the following day at the same venue.