01/03/2024

The West Indies celebrate their big 4-1 series win against Australia in St Lucia. Image: cricket.com.au

The West Indies were far too clinical in their series against Australia, leaving plenty of questions for the tourists ahead of the World Cup

The West Indies completed a comprehensive 4-1 series victory over Australia on Saturday morning with a 16 run victory in St Lucia.

While it was an Australian side missing several first-choice players due to bubble fatigue, the full-strength West Indies team flexed its collective muscles, demonstrating the gap in class between the two nations just months ahead of the T20 world cup in the UAE.

The Inner Sanctum looks at the Top 6 talking points to emerge from the 5 match series.

Big Bash stars fail to take their chance

With a number of first-choice players opting out of the tour, a chance was handed to Australia’s next rung of players to make a name for themselves and take an opportunity for themselves.

Chairman of selectors Trevor Hohns, when announcing the tour, implored those getting their chance through the unavailability of the top stars to make the most of the opportunities.

“If somebody were to really shoot the lights out with the bat or the ball, we’d have to stand up and take notice,” Hohns said when the squad was announced.

Unfortunately for Hohns and Australia, none of those players stood up and made the most of their chances.

Sydney Sixers captain Moises Henriques, back in favour of the national setup but only yielded 95 runs (@19. T/S: 33. S/R123.37).

Ben McDermott has been involved in multiple T20i camps and tours but again failed in his 2 matches (9 runs @4.5. T/S: Seven. S/R: 75) to parlay his Big Bash form into the International arena.

Even Josh Phillipe, on his second international tour, despite being shuffled around in the batting order, didn’t really make his desired impact with the bat with only 15 runs (@ 5. T/S: 13. S/R: 75) from three matches.

The Bowling wasn’t much better for Australia’s Big Bash stars with Riley Meredith ( 2 matches, 4 wickets BB: 3/48. Econ: 13.4).

It was similarly tough for experienced internationals Jason Behrendorff and Andrew Tye failing to make significant imprints on the series for the right reasons in the series.

Behrendorff went wicketless in his 2 games while Tye played 1 game and despite claiming 3/37, the damage was done after his first over went for 18 runs.

Australia’s search for a finisher continues

Despite being the first to play the format internationally,  Australia still hasn’t mastered Twenty20 cricket as the search for a finisher goes on.

Even at full strength, Australia has still failed to earmark and nail selections of players who can bat consistently in a defined role in a T20 side in the batting order from positions 5-7.

Before the start of the series, Australia had cycled through 25 players in those spots since the 2016 world cup with a strike rate of just 118.52. Well short of the mark required for the middle overs in a Twenty20 game.

These line-ups most likely include power players such as Glen Maxwell and Marcus Stoinis who float up and down the order too.

In this series alone, Australia used Henriques, Turner, Carey, Christian, and McDermott at a lowly strike rate of 105.22.

If the series was dubbed as a “fact-finding mission”, there are doubts they would have found what they wanted to look for.

Don’t discount the back to back dream

The West Indies have always been a curious case study as a cricketing nation.

Not since the fearsome Test sides of the 70s and 80s have they posed a threat in the longest and most traditional form of the game, but in the shortest & richest form of the game, they continue to produce supremely talented, bombastic, and explosive cricketers.

The team, lead by Kieron Pollard (who was absent this series due to injury) is stacked with young talent Nicholas Pooran, Shimron Hetmyer, Fabian Allen coupled with the experience of Chris Gayle, Andre Russell, Lendl Simmons, and Dwayne Bravo, all back in the International white ball fold in West Indian Cricket.

They possess the firepower and finesse, with all the role players combined to defend their crown which they famously won back in 2016.

Mitch carries the load, and secures his world cup spot

Far and away Australia’s best player on the tour, Mitch Marsh has always had a love-hate relationship with the Australian cricketing public.

Famously declaring at the end of play at The Oval Ashes test match in 2019 “most of Australia hates me” after a career day with the ball, Marsh has let his on-field performances do the talking in the Caribbean, taking his opportunity at number 3 with aplomb.

The 29-year-old finished the five-match series with 219 runs at 43.80 SR 152.08) and 8 wickets at 11.00 (economy 6.76)

Including 3 half-centuries and one four wicket haul.

Pending fitness, Steve Smith is set to take his place at number 3 for the T20 World Cup, but the form and performance of Marsh will have to be taken into consideration when the stars are back for the world cup.

Should he return, where does that leave Marsh?

He is likely to drop down to the middle order but after his most prolific series at International level, a return to the middle order could prove counterproductive to Australia’s chances.

Smith posses the ability to bat at different modes and tempos and therefore if he does come in at number 4 after Marsh, can adapt to the stage of the game being the classy player he is in all forms.

Smith sliding in at number 4 could also provide some much-needed stability to Australia’s dodgy middle order

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Caught in a spin

New series same problem.

Not the batting order, but something else attached to it. Australia still cannot face and manage spin bowling and it is one of the main reasons why they won’t, at this stage, get close to winning the T20 world cup in the UAE.

Australia collapsed in all their batting innings in the series with West Indies leg spinner Hayden Walsh Jr was the chief destroyer, taking 12 wickets at 11.66 across 5 innings.

With the spin-friendly conditions that will be on offer in the UAE, it poses many a problem for the Australian batters ahead of the tournament.

Which begs the question, What’s the best attack?

With the low, spin-friendly conditions to be served up in the UAE, what will the makeup of the Australian attack be when the world cup rolls around?

It will likely be formed around leg-spinner Adam Zampa and left-arm spinner Ashton Agar who’s opportunities in the last 12 months have been limited due to injury. Including in this recent series just gone.

Mitchell Swepson is the other spin option available who has played recently in Australia in the format against India at home but wasn’t called up until the final game against the West Indies.

Who takes the pace bowling positions is anyone’s guess.

Pat Cummins will return and Mitchell Starc’s experience with the white ball, especially in ICC tournaments will be hard to pass up.

Josh Hazelwood performed strongly in game 1 as he continues to enhance his reputation in the shortest form of the game. Kane and Jhye Richardson will also be among the leading contenders to be included in the squad pending fitness.

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