Because the 51allout team are generally pretty old we can’t really remember our school days in any great detail. There are vague memories of free milk, Granny’s Garden on the BBC Micro and being bitten by the class hamster, but that’s about it. We certainly can’t remember what we’d have said in response to a standard childhood question:
“What do you want to be when you grow up?“
At the time we probably said something rather lame, like a train driver, astronaut or writer for a largely unread cricket website. We certainly wouldn’t have said international cricketer. And it was due to this lack of focus and ambition that we don’t have to spend our days in airports, shuffling around like jet-lagged zombies (the worst kind) from one meaningless ODI series to another.
Australia were the latest victim of this curse, having travelled to the West Indies literally hours after completing the Commonwealth Bank series final against Sri Lanka (which we talked about here). Normally we like to make some extreme exaggerations about this sort of thing, but Brett Lee genuinely did have to come off the field during his final over in order to check in online and pick his seat.
Having made it to the West Indies (an epic journey that takes around 48 hours) Australia promptly put Brad Haddin on the first flight back. Presumably he was only there for the air miles.
After all that, there was still the small matter of two limited overs series, consisting of five ODIs and two T20s. Because we’re committed to our cricket writing we watched every single one of them (once we’d finished a hard day’s worth of driving trains and travelling into space of course – those bills won’t pay themselves).
It’s been a long time since the West Indies were actually good, in any sort of consistent meaningful way. And yet in the five match ODI series there were definite hints of a better future with big, noisy crowds enjoying a very close series. It actually finished 2-2, with Australia winning the first and last games, West Indies the second and fourth with the third being tied.
At first it looked like being business as usual for the West Indies, bowled out on a stodgy Kingstown pitch for just 140 to lose the first game by 64 runs. When Ashes hero Xavier Doherty takes four wickets against you it’s definitely time for a bit of a ponder. And yet the West Indies came roaring back in the second, chasing down 155 with ten balls to spare, thanks to Kieron Pollard’s 47*. Earlier Sunil Narine bowled a beautiful spell of spin bowling, mixing off-breaks with all sorts of varieties, and Australia simply never got going.
The third game was something of a minor classic, finishing tied when the final West Indies pair (Sammy and Roach) ended up at the same end of the pitch, despite having three balls to score the single run required to win. It was scant reward for the home side, who fought back from 72/5 in pursuit of Australia’s 220.
Nevertheless, the momentum seemed to be with the home side and so it proved in the fourth game from St Lucia,which witnessed Kieron Pollard blitzing a hundred as the Windies racked up 294/7. We spend a lot of time around the 51allout water-cooler talking about Pollard – his relentless inconsistency is the source of much amusement – but it all clicked into place here, aided by a hugely enjoyable 31* from 18 balls from Darren Sammy in which he nearly managed to hit the ball into the sea. Despite some spirited hitting of their own from Brett Lee (59), Australia never looked like chasing it down, being bowled out for 252.
And so it came to a final game with the possibility of a West Indies series win over Australia for the first time since 1995. Obviously it didn’t happen – we’ve already told you the series finished 2-2 – as Australia’s top order finally clicked, with Warner, Watson and Forrest all making half centuries in a total of 281/9. At 118/7 in reply, it looked like the West Indies had no chance before a fantastic 84 from 50 balls from captain Sammy threatened to turn things around. However, he was last man out with the score on 251 and the series was all square.
It’s hard to argue with the 2-2 scoreline. Both these ODI sides are patchy, lurching from being worldbeaters to being very ordinary every few minutes. The West Indies big hitting lineup lacks any real consistency while Australia’s bowling seems incredibly reliant on Brett Lee, while hoping that no-one notices how ordinary Watson and Christian really are.
Something that we didn’t realise until the T20 series got going was quite how bad these two sides have been. Australia haven’t won an away T20 series since their first ever in 2005 (when they beat New Zealand in a one-off game that wasn’t exactly taken seriously) while a 2-0 defeat for the West Indies would have seen them drop below Afghanistan in the rankings.
In the first game the West Indies struggled to get going, reaching 63/2 at the halfway stage before another Pollard special, 54* from 26 balls, took them to a round 150/7. In reply Australia strolled home, thanks to 69 from Shane Watson and 59* from Mike Hussey. It was fairly routine stuff, like yet another series of The Apprentice.
It looked like a similar result in the second game as well. West Indies did their innings in reverse, starting very well before tailing off badly, finishing on 160. In reply Australia were 59/1 from seven overs with David Warner and George Bailey both well set and it seemed only a matter of time. And yet Bailey holed out, Mike Hussey went cheaply and Dave Warner was brilliantly run out by Dwayne Bravo. Suddenly there was a bit of pressure and Australia crumbled, finishing 14 runs short. Another series was shared.
While these two series were both close and hard-fought, we just can’t see the Test series being the same. Australia have rebuilt their Test side over the last twelve months with mostly successful results. The West Indies meanwhile haven’t played a Test since their remarkable draw with the scores level against India in November. If they can display a similar level of application and spirit they may have a chance. After all, we didn’t expect much of them when England toured in 2009…
Regardless of what happens we’ll be covering it all, unless we get some overtime on the trains.