Watson will relinquish the captaincy to George Bailey for the two-match series starting on Tuesday (AP PHOTO)
St Lucia: A tied ODI series has spiced up Australia’s tour of the West Indies, and Tuesday’s first Twenty20 at the Beausejour Cricket Ground in Gros Islet. It is rare that West Indies can claim to be on even terms with Australia, but that is the scenario following a spirited five-match ODI series that has given the home team plenty of lift for the remainder of the series.
Australia avoided a first series defeat at the hands of West Indies in 17 years with a 30-run win in the fifth and final ODI at this same ground, but Shane Watson’s admission that dissatisfaction with the overall results suggest the visitors will come out stronger in the two Twenty20s.
Watson will relinquish the captaincy to George Bailey for the two-match series starting on Tuesday, and expects it to be as competitive as the ODIs. "They've got a very good Twenty20 team as we do," he said. "I think it's just going to continue to be a great series."
Australia’s Twenty20 form over the past 12 months has been disappointing. They have won just two matches – against South Africa and India – and lost four. The decision to hand over the captaincy to Bailey before he had made his debut for Australia in any format was seen as step forward, and now the challenge for the skipper is to inspire his team against a side that has fought almost tooth and nail over the past ten days. Bailey’s form in a low-scoring ODI series was fairly decent (172 runs at 34.40) but now, as leader, he has a tougher role. Not a very successful Twenty20 player, Bailey would do well to enhance his reputation with runs.
Australia’s Twenty20 squad is a good one, with Watson and Warner at the top followed by Mathew Wade. Bailey should slot in between the Hussey brothers, with Daniel Christian at No. 7 as the allrounder. Brett Lee, Clint McKay and Xavier Doherty will form the bowling attack, with James Pattinson replacing Ben Hilfenhaus.
For West Indies, their best hopes lie in strong performances from Kieron Pollard, Dwayne Bravo, Darren Sammy – who smashed six sixes during his 84 in the final ODI – and Andre Russell, the big-hitting allrounder. They will also look to extract a solid outing from Dwayne Smith. Smith last played for West Indies in 2011, but is in form in Twenty20 cricket.
He was the third-highest run-getter in the Caribbean Twenty20 competition, scoring 165 runs at a strike-rate of 136.36, and then scored 346 runs at 137.30 for Khulna Royal Bengals in the Bangladesh Premier League. Smith could partner Johnson Charles at the top of West Indies’ innings, with the opener Adrian Barath not part of the squad.
With Kemar Roach and Devendra Bishoo also not included, the bowling attack will most likely comprise of the returning Fidel Edwards, Russell, Sammy and Sunil Narine.
West Indies: 1 Johnson Charles, 2 Dwayne Smith, 3 Marlon Samuels, Darren Bravo, 5 Kieron Pollard, 6 Dwayne Bravo, 7 Andre Russell, 8 Darren Sammy (capt), 9 Carlton Baugh (wk), 10 Sunil Narine, 11 Fidel Edwards.
Australia: 1 David Warner, 2 Shane Watson, 3 Mathew Wade (wk), 4 David Hussey, 5 Michael Hussey, 6 George Bailey (capt), 7 Daniel Christian, 8 Brett Lee, 9 Clint McKay, 10 Xavier Doherty, 11 James Pattinson