The South Africa versus Australia encounter on Sunday was going to be a crucial one since all three teams were equal on points heading into that game. However, the washout at Barbados has changed the equation a bit. With two matches, remaining in the league stage, Australia now find themselves in a must-win situation when they face West Indies on Tuesday. At the same time, if the Aussies beat West Indies, they will have booked a place in the final, leaving South Africa and West Indies in a virtual knockout in the last league match. Alternately, a win for the Windies would signal Australia’s exit.
Considering the do-or-die nature of the match, there is a high possibility of Australia playing Mitchell Starc in the playing eleven. So far, Australia have alternated between playing and resting him, but considering the significance of the game, there isn’t a high chance of him being left out from Tuesday’s match. The left-arm seamer is an expert at moving the white ball, and the West Indies will definitely be weary of him. There will be a toss-up between slow bowler Adam Zampa and pacer Nathan Coulte-Nile for a bowling slot.
One of the big worries for Australia in the batting department remains the form of Glenn Maxwell. He was dropped for the early part of the series, but has been recalled since the Aussies know the significance of his presence as a dynamic player. Maxwell really needs to pick up his game though. With David Warner being ruled out due to injury, Usman Khawaja has moved into his opening spot. And, while he hasn’t been as aggressive, the consistently that’s expected of him has definitely been there. Skipper Steven Smith and George Bailey are also heading towards peak form, so that should help.
Although they haven’t been consistent, as has been expected of them, West Indies wouldn’t be too displeased with their series results so far. They have managed to defeat Australia and South Africa once again, and that’s a rather significant achievement, considering the hosts are devoid of a number of their star performers. Sunil Narine was brilliant in the first match against South Africa with a six four even as Kieron Pollard blasted a half-century in the same game. In the win over Australia, Marlon Samuels stood out, and gave a good account of himself.
While the batting line up looks more or less settled, with the openers Andre Fletcher and Johnson Charles also firing, they have a problem in the bowling department. Jerome Taylor has been dropped owing to his poor showing. This means West Indies will be forced to bring in either Shannon Gabriel or off-spinner Ashey Nurse. Gabriel is more likely to get the nod since picking Nurse would leave the hosts short on pace options. The experienced players like Darren Bravo and Denesh Ramdin have played good supporting roles, but they need to start turning those into match-winning ones.
--By A Cricket Analyst