Hinds and Lara seal nine-wicket win

43.3 overs West Indies 249 for 1 (Hinds 103*, Lara 75*) beat Australia 247 for 8 (Lehmann 107, Gayle 5-46) by nine wickets

Wavell Hinds scored a magnificent 103 not out, his second century in three days, and Chris Gayle emulated Viv Richards's feat at Dunedin in 1986-87, with five wickets and a half-century in the same match, as West Indies cruised to a nine-wicket victory over Australia in the seventh and final one-day match in Grenada. The icing on the cake was applied by Brian Lara, who cracked Darren Lehmann for three consecutive sixes to rampage to victory, and Australia's all-conquering tour had ended in abject defeat.

Let it not be forgotten that the series had been done and dusted after four games, but there was still plenty pride at stake. Ricky Ponting himself had described the final three matches as a series within a series. But now, after 21 victories in consecutive matches, Australia have lost three in a row to the same team for the first time since the Texaco Trophy series against England in 1997.

Australia, Lehmann excused, were off the pace throughout the match. They began their innings in a tangle, as Lara manipulated his spin bowlers to wonderful effect, and they finished in a heap. Hinds and Gayle became the first West Indian opening pair to post three figures against Australia in one-day cricket, and Hinds and Lara compiled a second, even more vigorous, century partnership in the same innings.

Australia were visibly shattered by the end. Their fortunes were summed up by two men - Ricky Ponting, the man of the tour, who was unable to lead his team in the field after being clattered on the right hip early in his innings, and Jason Gillespie, who snarled and glared his way through ten economical overs, but dropped the most outrageous sitter at long-off when Hinds was on 76. With Lara at his bat-flinging best, it was hardly a match-turning moment, but it was the sort of chance that the World-Cup vintage Australians would have gobbled.

They had been all at sea in the first 15 overs of the match. Unsettled by Lara's unorthodox tactics, which involved a solitary opening over from the offspin of Marlon Samuels, Matthew Hayden (8) clipped Merv Dillon straight down the throat of Dave Bernard jr on the midwicket boundary (a replica of his dismissal on Friday), before Adam Gilchrist played back to Samuels with uncertain footwork and inside-edged onto his stumps for 5 (18 for 2).

Had it not been for a quick-footed contribution from Lehmann, Australia would have been even deeper in the mire. Lehmann is an unlikely understudy for the ultra-athletic Michael Bevan, but he used the crease well to nurdle the spinners and clip the quicks off his pads. He limited himself to four fours and one out-of-context six in his first 70 runs, before unfurling his reverse-sweep and booming drive to crack six more fours in 20 balls. He found good support from Andrew Symonds (48) and Brad Hogg, who played a number of air shots early on, but eventually began connecting with his deft sweeps and flicks, finishing with an important 53 from 58 balls.
The final total was some 30 runs more than West Indies might have hoped to concede, after their domination of the early exchanges. But it mattered little when Hinds and Gayle came together at the start of West Indies's reply. As usual, it was Gayle who made the early running. He nearly kneecapped umpire Doctrove at point with a blistering cut shot in the second over, before resuming his feud with Brett Lee, cracking him for a pair of fours in the fifth over. Gayle, who suffers from a heart complaint, tired visibly after his early exertions, and at one stage had to take several minutes' rest and a drink of water before continuing. But continue he did, raising his fifty with a mighty six over long-off, as Symonds's first over disappeared for 13 runs.

But Symonds soon had his revenge, though not before Hinds had thumped him for a six of his own, as Gayle was deceived and bowled by a yorker-length quicker ball (116 for 1). Gayle's innings had lasted 68 balls with one six and eight fours, but there was no respite for Australia, as Lara strode to the middle. Hinds cranked up a gear, slamming Brad Hogg over long-on for the second six over his innings, and was deservingly named Man of the Series in the post-match presentations.

For Australia, a five-week break cannot come soon enough. They have been on the road virtually non-stop since November, and with Bangladesh and Zimbabwe to follow, they shouldn't have to exert themselves too much in the next few months. West Indies, on the other hand, are riding the crest of a wave, and Sri Lanka are likely to find the going pretty tough when they arrive next week.