Depleted Windies push defending champions before going down

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa,  CMC – Half-centuries from Travis Dowlin and Andre Fletcher were not enough to carry West Indies over the threshold, and Australia outgunned them by 50 runs in the ICC Champions Trophy yesterday.

Dowlin gathered five fours in the top score of 55 from 87 balls, and Fletcher struck four fours and one six in 54 from 77 balls, as West Indies failed to successfully chase 276 for victory in the fifth match of the competition at The Wanderers.

West Indies captain Floyd Reifer made a workmanlike 28 from 56 balls, and his deputy Darren Sammy smote two sixes and a four in 20 from 23 balls, as the Caribbean side – batting one short because of an injury to opener Dale Richards – were dismissed for 225 in 46.5 overs.

The result meant that West Indies now have little or no chance of reaching the semifinals, after they lost their opening match against Pakistan last Wednesday by five wickets at the same venue.

West Indies play their final group match against current World No.2 India next Saturday at the same venue.

West Indies had been let down by their bowlers in the closing overs, as Australia – Mitchell Johnson in particular – made them pay.

The Caribbean side had fought back to restrict Australia to 171 for seven in the 40th over, but Johnson – later named Man-of-the-Match – gained a reprieve when he was eight from Pakistani umpire Asad Rauf, and proceeded to clatter eight fours and three sixes in a career-best 73 not out from 47 balls to give the Aussies a decisive, late boost.

As a result, West Indies conceded 69 from the Batting Power Play which was taken from the 45th to 49th overs, and Australia – sent in to bat – reached 275 for eight from their allocation of 50 overs, after their captain Ricky Ponting had set them up with nine fours and one six in the top score of 79 from 94 balls.

Left-arm spinner Nikita Miller was the pick of the West Indies’ bowlers with two wickets for 24 runs from his allotment of 10 overs, but he lacked meaningful support from the faster bowlers.

West Indies then suffered a setback even before they started their chase, when they learnt that Richards would not bat, following a dislocation of his right shoulder when fielding.

Devon Smith moved up to an accustomed role and with Fletcher gave West Indies a positive start before he was caught behind off Peter Siddle for 17 edging a hook at a short, rising ball in the sixth over.

West Indies remained in contention, when Dowlin joined Fletcher, and they resolutely added 86 for the second wicket.

Fletcher reached his 50 from 71 balls, when he turned a delivery from Nathan Hauritz to fine leg for a single in the 23rd over.

Just when it looked like he would get into the swing of things, he failed to beat Johnson’s direct hit at the bowler’s end going for a single off Brett Lee, and was run out in the 25th over.

Chadwick Walton – promoted to four – again gave proof that he was out of his depth, when he swiped at a full-length delivery from James Hopes, and was bowled for a two-ball duck to leave West Indies 128 for three in the 26th over.

Reifer came to the crease and settled things down again with Dowlin, as they put on a valuable 42 for the fourth wicket.

Dowlin reached his 50 from 73 balls, when he drove Hauritz to long-on for a single in the 33rd over, but he was one of two wickets West Indies conceded while adding only 29 runs in the Batting Power Play from the 37th to the 41st overs.

Dowlin top-edged a hook at a short ball from Lee and wicketkeeper Tim Paine held a fine catch running back towards the boundary in the first over of the Power Play, and three overs later, Dave Bernard Jr ill-advisedly gave himself room to drive, and was bowled by Siddle for eight with a fast, full, straight ball.

West Indies’ last chance of a late flourish, and a close call for Australia were decided in the space of five balls in the 45th over bowled by Shane Watson, when Sammy was caught on the cover boundary driving a waist-high full toss, and Reifer was caught at backward point slicing a drive.

Nikita Miller and Kemar Roach then meekly surrendered off successive balls in the 47th over bowled by Hauritz to bring the West Indies innings to a feeble close.
Earlier, the match was a genuine contest, after West Indies chose to field on another lively Wanderers pitch.

Roach had given West Indies an early confidence booster, when he spectacularly bowled Shane Watson with the first ball of the match for a duck, extracting the Australian opener’s off-stump.

West Indies failed to use the momentum, and Ponting put Australia back on track with a stand of 85 for the second wicket with Paine.

Bernard made the breakthrough in the 20th over, when he had Paine caught behind for 33, and the defending champions stumbled through the middle overs against steady, if not menacing bowling from the Caribbean side.

Bernard added the scalp of Mike Hussey caught at fine leg in the 26th over, but the transformation took place, when Australia lost four wickets for 23 runs in the space of 53 balls between the 31st and 40th overs.

Miller had Ponting stumped and then bowled Craig White for four before Roach bowled Callum Ferguson for 20 and Sammy had James Hopes caught behind for five.

The closing overs could have gone differently for West Indies had Rauf been more astute and adjudged Johnson caught behind off Gavin Tonge in the 43rd over, when the Aussie left-hander edged a loose drive to Walton.

Unfortunately for West Indies, Johnson used the reprieve to batter their attack, and he added 70 for the eighth wicket with Lee to turn the tide.

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