Lendl Simmons lashed his ninth Twenty20 International fifty but seamer Mitchell Starc produced a brilliant last over to shackle Andre Russell, as Australia denied West Indies a fourth straight win with a narrow four-run success late Wednesday night.
Chasing 190 for victory at the Daren Sammy National Stadium, West Indies were overwhelming favourites when Simmons top-scored with 72 off 48 deliveries, opening partner Evin Lewis belted a 14-ball 31 and Fabian Allen, a pulsating 14-ball 29, to leave only 11 runs to get from the final over.
However, Starc then stunningly kept the big-hitting Russell (24 not out) scoreless from the first five deliveries of the over. The first two balls were fast, full and speared in at the right-hander’s toes and Russell could do little with a low full toss off the third ball which he tugged to mid-wicket and declined the single.
The fourth ball cannoned into Russell’s pads as he missed another swing and he was guilty of botching the critical fifth delivery, unable to get another full toss over the ropes and skying into no-man’s land at mid-wicket.
While the last ball disappeared for six over mid-wicket, it was too little too late as Australia broke their sequence of defeats to avoid the possibility of a whitewash.
“We knew that if Mitchell Starc executed, he’s as good as anyone in the world,” said Aussie skipper Aaron Finch.
“He’s done it for the best part of ten years so we have a lot of faith in him, he’s got a lot of faith in himself. It was just great to get over the line.”
Finch’s opposite number Nicholas Pooran, leading again in the absence of the injured Kieron Pollard, said there had been a few missteps in the chase but said the result was not one to fret over.
“Maybe we could’ve gotten a bit more singles in the middle overs but that’s fine. Chasing 189 and getting to 185, that is fine,” he pointed out.
“The last over was well executed by Mitchell Starc so well done to him but on another day, we could’ve easily won the game but that’s OK.”
Mitchell Marsh had earlier struck this third half-century of the series with 75 off 44 balls, posting 114 for the second wicket with opener Finch who struck 53 off 37 deliveries.
Opting to bat first, Australia lost Matthew Wade for five in the second over but Marsh arrived to hit four fours and half-dozen sixes and Finch, five fours and three sixes, to revive their side.
However, once Finch missed a slog at leg-spinner Hayden Walsh (3-27) and was bowled in the 12th over, Australia lost five wickets for 40 runs off 34 balls, and needed Dan Christian’s unbeaten 22 off 14 deliveries to get up to 189 for six off their 20 overs.
Marsh, who smashed a couple of fours and sixes in a chaotic fourth over from fast bowler Oshane Thomas which cost 25 runs, reached his half-century off 24 balls in the ninth over, before falling to a catch at the wicket off left-arm spinner Fabian Allen in the 18th over.
“I thought [the total] was probably par. Also, with the West Indies, you never think it’s enough with the guys they’ve got to come in at the end,” said Marsh, who also claimed three for 24 with his medium pace.
Simmons and Lewis then gave West Indies a rollicking start to their chase, putting on 62 off just 29 deliveries.
While Simmons counted ten fours and two sixes, left-hander Lewis hit four fours and two sixes before missing a backfoot drive at leg-spinner Adam Zampa (2-20) and having his stumps rattled in the fifth over.
Chris Gayle’s funk returned when he picked out long on with Marsh in the eighth over to perish for one, but Simmons added 35 for the third wicket with Pooran (16) to keep the run chase going.
Simmons and Pooran eventually fell to successive deliveries in the 16th over from Marsh to leave West Indies stumbling on 132 for five before Allen and Russell came together to add a pulsating 47 off 21 balls for the sixth wicket.
Together, they plundered 25 off the penultimate over from pacer Riley Meredith before Allen edged the final delivery behind, and left-armer Starc then produced his final over heroics.