Their campaign back on track after drubbing Bangladesh in their previous game, Australia cannot afford slip-up against an unpredictable West Indies in their final Super 12 match as they look to seal a semifinal spot in the T20 World Cup 2021 in Abu Dhabi on Saturday.
After losing to arch-rivals England last Saturday, Australia bounced back with a record eight-wicket win over Bangladesh on Thursday which boosted their net run rate from -0.627 to +1.031.
Still, a win may not be enough for the Aaron Finch-led side to book a last-four berth if the Proteas manage to beat the Englishmen by a margin that would better their NRR than Australia’s in Saturday’s another Group 1 match in Sharjah.
If lucky, a loss against West Indies still could hand Australia a semifinal spot as Group 1 runners-up if England make it five out of five, beating South Africa. So, there’s a lot at stake for both Australia and South Africa. Australia are currently occupying the second spot ahead of the Proteas by virtue of better NRR in the Group 1 table.
Facing such an uncertain scenario, the Australians cannot afford to be complacent. Moreover, a bruised and battered Caribbeans, who are the defending champions, would look to salvage some pride and bow out of the showpiece with a win.
Australia, the 2010 runners-up, had made their last semi-final appearance in 2012 when they were eliminated by the eventual champions West Indies. The two-time defending champions West Indies side failed to live up to their reputation as they relied heavily on their ageing stars like Chris Gayle, Dwayne Bravo, Andre Russell and Kieron Pollard.
From crashing to 55 all out in their group opener against England to faltering against Sri Lanka on Thursday that sent them out of reckoning for a semifinal spot, it just did not work out for West Indies. Australia, on the other hand, are beginning to peak at the right time in their bid to win their only missing title.
Their bowling attack came to the fore in their eight-wicket win over Bangladesh that came with 82 balls to spare -- the highest T20I win between two Full Member teams. While the pace duo of Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc gave the opening blows, leg spinner Adam Zampa polished off the tail en route to a career-best 5/19.
Even Glenn Maxwell (2-0-6-1) was tidy with his part-time off-spin and the team would only hope that he starts firing with his bat also.
Their inconsistent top-order also got some boost with the return of Mitchell Marsh at No 3. Marsh blasted 16 not out off five balls, including a six against Taskin Ahmed, to seal the issue after skipper Finch laid the foundation with a 40.
They would hope that the likes of David Warner and Maxwell get into the groove against the misfiring Windies as they may stick to an unchanged XI.
Australia: Aaron Finch (c), Pat Cummins, Ashton Agar, Josh Hazlewood, Josh Inglis, Mitchell Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Kane Richardson, Steven Smith, Mitchell Starc, Marcus Stoinis, Matthew Wade, David Warner, Adam Zampa, Mitchell Swepson.
West Indies: Kieron Pollard (c), Nicholas Pooran, Fabian Allen, Dwayne Bravo, Roston Chase, Andre Fletcher, Chris Gayle, Shimron Hetmyer, Evin Lewis, Jason Holder, Lendl Simmons, Ravi Rampaul, Andre Russell, Oshane Thomas, Hayden Walsh Jr.