Ricky Ponting is accustomed to leading from the front and playing mammoth innings in his milestone matches but in his 300th ODI it was his two most senior assistants who got Australia over the line. After Ponting fell for 13 on a slow, seaming pitch, Michael Clarke and Michael Hussey rescued Australia with a match-winning 100-run stand.
Clarke is Ponting's vice-captain and Hussey temporarily took that role when Clarke initially stayed home for family reasons early in the tour. The two men showed why they are trusted with leadership roles by grinding out a calm partnership that initially brought only eight runs in ten overs as they tried to consolidate, and Ponting appreciated their resolve.
"That was a really, really difficult one-day wicket to bat on," Ponting said after the match. "Hussey and Michael Clarke summed up things really well. They got us a partnership in the middle of our batting innings that got us enough runs to win the game. They're two pretty experienced players and we've actually done really well in these sort of conditions before - slow, low sort of wickets - we've actually got a very good record of late playing those sort of conditions."
Hussey and Clarke both made half-centuries as Australia worked their way to 213 for 5, which Ponting was confident would be enough on such a tricky surface. Clarke ended up as the Man of the Match after also grabbing 3 for 26 as West Indies capitulated to lose by 63 runs on the Duckworth/Lewis method, but he said Hussey was the key man with the bat.
"He was fantastic," Clarke said. "He's certainly the brains behind the operation upstairs. He keeps my head screwed on and I thought he did a fantastic job today."
Australia's sensible approach through the middle overs was not copied by West Indies. As usual, Shivnarine Chanderpaul was a rock with an unbeaten 45 but his colleagues fell around him, often to terrible shot selections under the circumstances. Chris Gayle, the captain, was not without blame after miscuing a pull on 10.
"Batting again [was] a big disappointment, the way some of the guys got out," Gayle said. "It was a bit difficult to bat on. It was a bit two-paced and stuff but once you're stuck in there you have to work hard for your runs on that sort of wicket and we just didn't have the patience today."
The major concern for West Indies is they are now down 2-0 in a five-match series and the next game will be at the same venue, in very similar conditions, on Sunday. If West Indies are to achieve any sort of comeback they will need a lift from their senior players, including Gayle, as Australia continue to get significant contributions from their leaders.