Australia v West Indies Preview
Colin Croft - 30 May 1999
This week-end's game between the West Indies and Australia would be the tie-breaker of the recently concluded one day series in the Caribbean. For those who forget, few I am sure, that series concluded with an inconclusive 3-3-1, the one being a draw/abandoned game. So, as Fred Sanford in Sandford & Son would say, "This is the big one baby!!"
I think that the West Indies should have two advantages here.
Firstly, they were supposed to lose badly to Australia in both the Test series and the one day series after the drubbing they had taken in South Africa. In the end, without being partisan, after some wonderful batting from Brian Lara and some aggressive bowling by the West Indian bowlers, many would agree that the West Indies was probably the better team at the end of that tumultuous tied series which only ended late last month. Neither team will forget that. The psychological edge that series gives to the West Indies is immeasurable.
Secondly, the West Indies seem to be moving from average to good to better as this World Cup progresses. Even against Scotland, the bowlers were very clinical, not messing around. The batsmen are all coming into some form and the best of them, Lara, has been suggesting, with his bat, that he is just about due for "a big one." He seems to be getting better and better without being entirely dominant. Add the fact that he has this "thing" about Shane Warne and Glen McGrath and that could well be the catalyst for a tremendous lashing for the Aussies.
Ridley Jacobs and the fast bowlers have asserted themselves well. Curtly Ambrose and especially Courtney Walsh have been truly unbelievable. They are as good, if not better, than any other fast bowling pair here at the World Cup. They certainly are better, on paper and performances, than Glen McGrath and Damien Flemming. The Australian wicket-keeper, Adam Gilchrist, is equally as efficient behind the stumps as Jacobs. Since they are both the openers/pinch hitters for their respective team, the difference here is minuscule.
Mark Waugh and Steve Waugh have, like Lara, not yet fired properly. All three of these guys could destroy the opposition's bowling on their day. If all goes well, and we have a great hot day on Sunday, then we could actually see a big run feast featuring these three players. On the other hand, Sherwin Campbell has to be steady and determined enough to withstand the expected onslaught and pressure.
Ricky Ponting and Shiv Chanderpaul are on comparable basis. Chanderpaul is more dependable while Ponting is more dashing and could be extremely dangerous. Darren Lehmann and Stewart Williams have been the Achilles Heel of their respective team's batting. Neither have been convincing. It is not inconceivable to have Keith Arthurton in for Williams. While Michael Bevan is a much better batsman than bowler, Phil Simmons counteracts that by being a better bowler than batsman here at this tournament.
The West Indies must go in with four fast bowlers. Ambrose, Walsh, Reon King and Merve Dillon are perhaps the best combination here, despite Reon King's poor fielding. No longer should any team be handicapped by having only three front line bowlers. Both Australia and the West Indies have already found this out. The fielding should now improve even more if Viv Richards is involved in the training. Indeed, Viv should have been the person brought in when the West Indies needed a Fielding Coach. However, he is now there, so no problem.
Shane Warne presents a truly different problem. He could be the match winner for Australia, but on recent evidence, he is still struggling somewhat. I would also suggest that he is talking a better game than he is playing. He must, however, never be underestimated.
It might just come down, in the end, to which team wants it more. Whatever happens, I believe that the West Indies will , as they have become more organised than the Aussies over the last few weeks. Whatever happens, it will be one hell of a game, probably the best and most important yet.