An inexplicable Australian batting collapse has seen the West Indies draw first blood in the T20I series-opener with the hosts recoding a remarkable comeback victory following a jaw-dropping Andre Russell cameo.
Left-arm quick Obed McCoy’s somersaulting catch off his own bowling was the highlight in a stunning implosion of 7-38 from the visitors that handed the Windies an 18-run victory.
Russell (51 off 28) hit fives sixes including two out of the Daren Sammy Cricket Ground in an incredible display of power-hitting that singlehandedly turned an otherwise lacklustre Windies batting effort into a competitive score of 6-145.
A career-best 51 off 31 from Mitch Marsh on the back of Matthew Wade’s quick-fire 33 off 14 (including three sixes) had the visitors flying at over 10 runs per over early in the chase.
But the loss of regular wickets left their tail with too much to do, with the new-look middle-order quartet of Josh Philippe (1), Moises Henriques (16 off 8), Ben McDermott (2 off 6) and Dan Christian (10 off 12) all failing to stay the course.
McCoy’s astonishing caught-and-bowled off Ashton Agar (1) all but sealed the Windies win, with leg-spinner Hayden Walsh (3-23) also instrumental in the comeback cheered vociferously under lights by the modest crowd allowed to attend.
Having been 3-70 at the end of the six-over Powerplay, the Australians lost their last six wickets for just 19 runs, including their last five in just 21 balls, to be bowled out for 127.
After his first over had cost 17, McCoy took the game-sealing wicket of Hazlewood to spark rapturous celebrations.
Armed with the knowledge seven of the last eight T20Is at this ground had been won by the team batting second, Australia smashed five sixes and lost three wickets inside the first six overs in an action-packed start to their innings.
After Aaron Finch was caught at cover for just four, Wade popped Russell over backward square twice in a 14-run first over for the allrounder before the Jamaican had the last laugh by having Wade caught on the deep-point boundary.
Henriques carted his first two balls for six off McCoy as Marsh continued the fireworks, but the Western Australian’s exit to Walsh to leave the score 6-117 was the first sign of the carnage to follow.
It was far cry from Australia’s earlier dominance after Finch elected to bowl first.
Josh Hazlewood exploited variable bounce in a terrific new-ball burst to claim the wickets of Evin Lewis (second-ball duck) and Chris Gayle as he conceded just three runs from his opening three overs.
Even conceding after a last-ball six from Dwayne Bravo, Hazlewood returned the equal sixth most economical four-over spell in T20Is by an Australian.
Dropped on five by Henriques, Russell made the Aussies pay by blasting five sixes in a breathtaking knock that was, surprisingly, just his first T20 International half-century.
His teammates offered little support as Lendl Simmons (27 off 28), Shimron Hetmyer (20 off 25) and Gayle (four off 10) all struggled against a tight bowling effort led by Hazlewood, Mitch Marsh (2-26 off four) and recalled veteran Dan Christian (0-10 off two overs).
Missing skipper Kieron Pollard due to a hamstring concern, the Windies’ woes were summed up by the stand-in captain Nicholas Pooran’s run out.
A strong lbw shout from Starc against Shimron Hetmyer caused confusion, with non-striker Pooran backing up too far and Josh Philippe swooping in with a direct hit.
The third umpire confirmed Pooran’s fate, but he had to wait while the lbw was considered given Finch had also signalled for a review.
Gayle’s lean run since returning to international cricket continued as Hazlewood worked him over, the Australian securing the wicket via a top-edged pull shot after the left-hander had scored from just one of his 10 deliveries.
The regular opener who is now batting at No.3 has 89 runs at 12.71 from eight T20I innings this year, and his strike-rate of 94.68 in that time is giving the Windies’ middle order a significant handicap.
(Story from cricket.com.au by Louis Cameron)