Australia showed the composure and assurance needed from the world champions to chase down a competitive target of 283 and reach the final with a six-wicket win against hosts West Indies in the seventh match of the tri-series at Kensington Oval in Barbados.
Marlon Samuels’ first-ever century against Australia along with a record-breaking partnership from Samuels and Denesh Ramdin led the Windies to a decent 282 for eight batting first.
But well-composed half-centuries by skipper Steven Smith and Mitchell Marsh, together with a blistering unbeaten 46 from Glenn Maxwell made sure that the target was achieved with eight balls remaining.
West Indies and South Africa will now face each other in the final preliminary fixture on Friday with the winners to challenge the Aussies on Sunday’s final.
Despite losing three early wickets it was Smith and Marsh who controlled the damage with a 122-run fourth-wicket partnership and lifted the current World Champions back of course.
However, once Smith was run out for 78 in the 42nd over, West Indies started to claw back with little hope of snatching the victory to eliminate Australia but all their hopes were extinguished by a hammering Maxwell.
Plundering with his full range of unorthodox shots, he smashed five fours and two sixes from just 26 balls to clear out any lingering anxiety in the Australian dressing room. Marsh stayed unbeaten on 79 at the end of the innings as his brilliant knock travelled a long way to fulfilling a lot of the promise which has been expected of him in the middle-order.
“Mitch played really well all the way through and Glenn was brilliant at the end there,” said a delighted Smith after the match. “We knew it was a challenging target but we always backed ourselves to get home.”
It was so different at the halfway point of the match following Samuels’ superb knock, an effort that earned him the “Man of the Match” award.
Earlier on, dismissed off the last ball of the innings for a sensational 125 off 134 balls that included 14 fours and two sixes, Samuels’ tenth one-day century looked a repeat of another match-winning 92 in the last meeting between the two sides in St. Kitts a week earlier. What interesting is, these two are his first two scores over 50 in ODI format against the Australians for more than 14 years.
Ramdin, who accompanied his senior partner in an impressive innings of 91, joined Samuels at the crease when West Indies were struggling at 31 for three in the ninth over after Smith had won the toss and decided to field.
They put on an amazing 192 for the fourth wicket which is a new record for West Indies against Australia as it overtook the mark of 149 set by Clive Lloyd and Rohan Kanhai in the first ever World Cup final at Lords 41 years earlier.
During his innings, Samuels even surpassed the landmark of 5,000 ODI runs while Ramdin became the first Windies wicketkeeper to reach 2,000 runs in the 50-overs format of the game before Mitchell Starc broke the partnership by bowling out Ramdin.
Two among the three sixes in his 92-ball innings were back to back straight hits off Starc, who finished with figures of 3/51. He would have also picked up the wicket of Samuels but wicketkeeper Matthew Wade wasn’t able to hold on to the chance offered when the Jamaican batsman was on 65.
Starc scalped the wickets of openers Johnson Charles and Andre Fletcher while Josh Hazlewood picked up Darren Bravo courtesy a diving slip catch by captain Smith within the first nine overs of the match.
“We put in a good effort but being a bowler short for most of the innings cost us,” said West Indies captain Jason Holder, who could only bowl two overs before he had to leave the field with a leg injury.
“We have to lift ourselves to face South Africa on Friday and I’m confident of us putting in a good effort.”