Gros Islet, Saint Lucia. West Indies’ hopes of a first series win over Australia in 17 years were shattered on Sunday when the tourists clinched a 30-run victory in a thrilling fifth and final one-dayer. Chasing a victory target of 282, West Indies came agonizingly close before Australia won to level the series 2-2 with one tie.
From a seemingly hopeless position of 118 for seven, skipper Darren Sammy and all-rounder Andre Russell carved out a record eighth-wicket partnership of 101 off just 59 balls to take their team to 219 with nine overs left.
Sammy, batting at nine, raced to 50 off just 20 balls and was eventually last man out in the 48th over having hit a blistering 84 off 50 deliveries with six boundaries and six sixes.
Russell made 41 off 33 balls before he was out lbw to Xavier Doherty, the Australians succeeding with a review after the batsman had been given not out by the on-field umpire.
Once that red-hot partnership was broken, the Australians were virtually home.
“At one time it looked like we would be chasing 330 but we pulled it back,” said Sammy.
“Against the world No. 1, with our backs against the wall, it was a fantastic effort.
“Today again the top order didn’t click but we can still put runs on the board. We have a ‘never say die’ attitude. I think we should have won the series.”
Australian captain Shane Watson admitted there was still work to be done ahead of a two-match Twenty20 series which starts here on Tuesday.
“Darren Sammy ran us close,” said Watson. “We hoped to get up around 300 but thought we’d done enough. There are a few things we have to work on but we’re going the right way.”
West Indies got off to a nightmare start, losing opener Johnson Charles and Marlon Samuels, who were both dismissed for ducks by a fired-up Brett Lee in the first and third overs.
Darren Bravo made just three off 21 balls when he was caught behind by Matthew Wade off Clint McKay with Dwayne Bravo becoming the fourth man out after a lazy prod to mid-off off Shane Watson ended his brief cameo of 19.
At the halfway stage of their run chase, West Indies were 82 for five after opener Adrian Barath (42) had been dismissed off slow bowler Xavier Doherty.
That left them requiring a run rate of eight an over and the situation got worse when Carlton Baugh was caught in the deep by Ben Hilfenhaus to give Lee his third victim.
Kieron Pollard, who blasted a match-winning century in Friday’s win that had given West Indies a 2-1 lead, was then caught by Mike Hussey off Watson in the 32nd over having hit two sixes in a 40-ball 33.
That was the cue for Sammy’s and Russell’s pyrotechnics which almost took them to a famous win.
Lee finished with the best figures of three for 42 off nine overs.
Australia made 281 for nine, their highest score of the series, after being put into bat.
Watson, with 66 off 89 balls, and fellow opener David Warner, who crashed 69 off 61 balls, with 10 fours and a six, put on 118 for the first wicket by the 20th over as the tourists looked on course for a 300-plus total.
But only Peter Forrest, with 53, made another major contribution.