Australia eye final spot in must-win game against West Indies

Ballr Cup Tri-Nation Series

The wash-out between Australia and South Africa in Barbados on Sunday has left all three teams still in with a chance of reaching the tri-series final. Two round-robin games remain – West Indies against Australia on Tuesday and West Indies against South Africa on Friday. Should Jason Holder’s men defeat Australia on Tuesday, the final will be settled – West Indies would play South Africa, and Australia would go home.

But if Steven Smith’s team prevails, Australia will be guaranteed of a place in the final and West Indies and South Africa would play off for the other spot on Friday. And despite South Africa’s two bonus points, it would be a straight shoot-out, because the tri-series rules state that number of wins takes precedence if teams are equal on points. A West Indian win on Friday would put them level with South Africa on points, but with one more win.

The upshot is that this game is must-win for Australia, but not for West Indies. Like all three sides in this tournament, Australia have been up and down throughout. The likely presence of Mitchell Starc is a potential key – his workload has been managed throughout the series and Australia have only lost the matches in which he did not play. His ability to swing the white ball could well turn a chase – West Indies’ preferred option is always to bat second.

It has been a tough tour so far for Glenn Maxwell, who made 0 and 3 in the first two games before being dropped. Maxwell was recalled against South Africa in Bridgetown on Sunday. He is expected to retain his place and Australia need something from him, not only with the bat, but also in the field. Their fielding was sloppy in St Kitts, and Maxwell might be just the man to lift that with his sharp work.

Nearly 16 years ago, Marlon Samuels first played Test cricket against Australia. He was still a teenager, and was viewed as a young man of great potential. Say what you will about Samuels’ career, one thing is undoubtedly true: he has rarely shown his best against Australia, averaging 21.06 against them across formats. But if the old cliché is true, that you’re only as good as your last innings, the Australians had better watch out, for Samuels plundered 92 against them to help West Indies to a win in St Kitts. It was Samuels’ highest score against Australia in any format.

In Sunday’s wash-out, Maxwell, Mitchell Starc and Scott Boland came in for Travis Head, Adam Zampa and Nathan Coulter-Nile. Maxwell and Starc are likely to retain their places but Boland, with little cricket behind him, is expected to make way for this must-win clash. Australia’s selectors must decide whether to go for pace and bring Coulter-Nile back, or perhaps more likely, recall the impressive young legspinner Zampa, who was left out against South Africa only because of the wet conditions.

The West Indies selectors have dropped Jerome Taylor from the squad, forcing at least one change to their XI. Fast bowler Shannon Gabriel and off-spinner Ashley Nurse both must be hoping for an ODI debut in this match. Including Nurse would leave Jason Holder and Carlos Brathwaite as the only pace options, so Gabriel would appear the more likely debutant.

West Indies squad reads; Jason Holder (capt), Sulieman Benn, Carlos Brathwaite, Darren Bravo, Jonathan Carter, Johnson Charles, Andre Fletcher, Shannon Gabriel, Sunil Narine, Ashley Nurse, Kieron Pollard, Denesh Ramdin, Marlon Samuels.

Australia squad reads; Steven Smith (capt), David Warner, George Bailey, Scott Boland, Nathan Coulter-Nile, James Faulkner, Aaron Finch, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Mitchell Starc, Matthew Wade, Adam Zampa and John Hastings.

The Kensington Oval surface is generally good for batting, but was a little tacky on Sunday, when there was rain around. The forecast for Tuesday does suggest that there is the possibility of rain again, although it looks more promising than Sunday’s weather. (ESPN Cricinfo)