Australia win thriller in fading light

Set 192 to win in two sessions, the Australians started their chase slowly and were almost derailed by middle-order wickets, but Michael Hussey’s calm and rational approach ensured they narrowly outpaced the setting sun to win by three wickets.

In a tense conclusion, Hussey was bowled by Kemar Roach for 32 from 26 balls with three runs still required, but Ryan Harris and Ben Hilfenhaus saw the Australians home and denied West Indies a satisfactory outcome despite them dominating the first three days. Hilfenhaus struck the winning run with a single scrambled to the off side and a direct-hit at the bowler’s end was sent to the third umpire, who found Hilfenhaus in his ground by a few inches.

All the while, the players were keeping an eye on the umpires, who were keeping an eye on the light and under the new ICC rules have complete authority to determine whether play continues or ceases. By the last few balls the shadows had completely enveloped the ground but there was just enough time for the Australians, who celebrated a victory that was set up by Michael Clarke’s gutsy declaration behind on the fourth day.

It was a decision that indicated Australia would attack in the final few sessions and by dismissing West Indies for 148 before lunch on the last day, they gave themselves hope. West Indies were not out of the contest either, and four wickets to Narsingh Deonarine gave them more that a slim chance, as the Australians still needed 52 runs with five wickets in hand when Clarke became the fourth of Deonarine’s victims.

But Hussey used the finishing skills that have made him such a valuable ODI player, reverse-sweeping to find gaps and twice clearing the long-on boundary off Deonarine to bring the target within reach. The loss of Matthew Wade, who cut Roach high and was caught at deep point for 18, was a blow, and the departure of Hussey in Roach’s next over kept the game alive, but it wasn’t enough for West Indies.

They were left to rue a couple of important dropped catches, particularly the captain Darren Sammy’s failure to hang on to a chance when Shane Watson had 4. Watson cut Roach viciously to gully and the ball fizzed through Sammy’s hands, and while it was a fearsome stroke it was certainly a catch that should have been taken. Ed Cowan was also reprieved when he edged Sammy and the keeper Carlton Baugh, standing up to the stumps, couldn’t glove the ball.

Cowan and Watson compiled a 75-run stand after David Warner was caught behind off Sammy for 23, but their partnership was notable for the snail’s pace at which it was built in the early stages.

Cowan went to tea on 11 from 61 balls and Australia needed another 131 in the final session, and their lack of urgency seemed at odds with Clarke’s aggressive declaration.

The tempo lifted after tea and the dropping of Watson proved costly as he started to find the boundary and on one occasion cleared it. He was caught at deep backward square leg for 52 when he top-edged an attempted pull off Deonarine and Cowan followed soon after for an agonising 34 from 100 balls when he pulled Deonarine straight to Shivnarine Chanderpaul at midwicket.

Ricky Ponting was bowled by a ball that stayed low and Clarke chipped a catch back to Deonarine, before Hussey and Wade steadied the chase. Australia had been favourites when they bowled West Indies out in an extended opening session in which the hosts added 77 to their overnight total for the loss of their last five wickets.

The last specialist batsman, Deonarine, added only one run to his score and was the first to depart, lbw to Harris for 21. It was precisely the start the Australians needed if they were to give themselves time to chase down a target, and they had another perfect chance soon afterwards when Sammy skied a chance to long-on.

Nathan Lyon put down a sitter to give Sammy a life on 12, and nobody was happier than Lyon when Sammy played on to Watson for 14, accidentally kicking the ball on to his stumps as he tried to prevent it rolling back. Baugh chipped a catch to mid-on from the bowling of Hilfenhaus (4 for 27) for 23 and West Indies were in trouble at 116 for 8.

Fidel Edwards defended solidly for a while before he played a surprisingly rash stroke and skied a catch to mid-off for 3 from 17 balls to give Peter Siddle his second wicket, and that brought the No.11 Devendra Bishoo to the crease. Bishoo defended calmly and together with Roach set about eating up time and adding some important runs to the total.

Their 23-run stand pushed the session beyond the scheduled lunch time but eventually ended when Roach was bowled by Harris for 25. That left the Australians with 192 to chase in two sessions and they were good enough to do so – just. West Indies were left to wonder what could have been.

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