Canberra: Before the start of the five-match series West Indian captain Darren Sammy spoke of how he believed his team could achieve a rare ODI trophy. Now, after two consecutive defeats, Sammy finds West Indies needing to win the third match in Canberra on Wednesday to keep the series alive.
The series began on a terrible note in Perth with West Indies rolled over for 74 en route to a nine-wicket pummeling. The tourists improved significantly on their batting effort in the second Perth fixture though they lost by 54 runs, with opener Kieran Powell (83) and Dwayne Bravo (45) showing some fight in their 126-run partnership. But on Sunday, once the Powell-Bravo stand was snapped West Indies lost their last seven wickets for 53 runs to be bowled out for 212 chasing 267. It's easy to see where the problems lie.
The extended poor form of Chris Gayle and Darren Bravo, as well as two ducks on return to the side from Ramnaresh Sarwan, has left West Indies' top order looking very shaky. Gayle made 4 in both matches in Perth to extend a lean run without an ODI fifty to ten matches - he averages 11.20 in this period - while Sarwan, back in the side after more than 18 months, has been taken out twice by Mitchell Starc's left-arm swing without scoring. The younger Bravo too has struggled to occupy the crease against quality pace bowling and that has led to collapses of 39 for 7 and 33 for 3 in two games. The lack of big partnerships has let West Indies down hard.
The series is on the line in Canberra where the return of Shane Watson adds to West Indies' problems.
Sarwan's consecutive ducks could cost him his place in the XI, with left-hand batsman Narsingh Deonarine in line for his first ODI since June 2010. Kemar Roach has bled runs at 6.66 an over and has a bowling average of 80 in two matches, so he could be dropped for Tino Best or Andre Russell.
Two wins - contrasting in nature, incidentally - has put Australia one victory away from wrapping up the series. They will feel better about their chances of making the final two ODIs dead rubbers with the return of Shane Warne at the top of the order. With David Warner ruled out of the series with a left thumb injury, Watson will open the innings with Aaron Finch, meaning Usman Khawaja will drop out of the XI. Australia have added Ben Cutting to their squad but the 1.92meter fast bowler may not get a change to add a second cap to his name unless the series is sealed. With consecutive five-wicket hauls, 23-year-old Starc has drawn level with nine bowlers in ODI history and should he do it a third time he will become just the second bowler after Waqar Younis to achieve the rare feat.
That statistical highlight aside, there will be heightened focus on two other members of the Australian team after the events in Chennai on Sunday. Glenn Maxwell may have bagged a first-ball blob in the second ODI and been hit by Sunil Narine for four successive sixes, but a price tag of $1million from Mumbai Indians at the IPL auction has turned him into an overnight celebrity. His team-mates James Faulkner, rated highly in Australia as an allrounder, was purchased for $400,000 by Rajasthan Royals. After such valuations, both Maxwell and Faulkner will have plenty of eyes trained on their moves.
Wednesday's fixture will be the third ODI to be played at the Manuka Oval - Zimbabwe and South Africa played here during the 1992 World Cup and Sri Lanka met India during the CB Series in 2008 - and it will be the first time Australia and West Indies play in the country's capital. The tour match between the West Indians and the Prime Minister's XI last week saw over 600 runs scored on the Manuka Oval pitch, so a run-filled contest looks on the cards.
Australia: 1 Aaron Finch, 2 Shane Watson, 3 Phillip Hughes, 4 Michael Clarke (capt), 5 George Bailey, 6 Matthew Wade (wk), 7 Glenn Maxwell, 8 James Faulkner, 9 Mitchell Johnson, 10 Clint McKay, 11 Mitchell Starc
West Indies: 1 Chris Gayle, 2 Kieran Powell, 3 Ramnaresh Sarwan/Narsingh Deonarine, 4 Darren Bravo, 5 Dwayne Bravo, 6 Kieron Pollard, 7 Devon Thomas (wk), 8 Darren Sammy, 9 Jason Holder, 10 Sunil Narine, 11 Kemar Roach/Tino Best