Lewis (79 off 34) powers West Indies to 4-1 series success over Australia

SUMMARY: West Indies 199-8 from 20 overs (Lewis 79 off 34, Pooran 31 off 18, Gayle 21 off 7, Simmons 21 off 12; Tye 3-37, Marsh 2-12, Zampa 2-30) vs Australia 183-9 from 20 overs (Finch 34, Marsh 30, Wade 26, Cottrell 3-28, Russell 3-43)

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Australia’s fourth defeat in five games to the West Indies was soured further by a knee injury suffered by captain Aaron Finch, with the West Indies sealing a 4-1 series victory in the fifth T20 International in St Lucia.

Evin Lewis’ rollicking 34-ball 79 in a power-hitting onslaught followed by a tremendous fielding performance from the Windies, including a Fabian Allen wonder-catch to remove Finch, consigned the Aussies to a 16-run defeat.

Evin Lewis of West Indies hits a six during the 5th and final T20I between Australia and West Indies at Darren Sammy Cricket Ground, Gros-Islet, Saint Lucia, on July 16, 2021. (Photo by Randy Brooks/AFP)

Australia’s only silver lining was their bowlers’ fight-back from getting hit for 16 sixes inside the first 15 overs of the hosts’ innings, holding the Windies to 199-8 after a much higher total looked on the cards.

But even that proved far too many as a promising platform laid by Finch (34 off 23) and Mitch Marsh (30 off 15) was thrown away as the middle-order faltered again.

Both Finch and Marsh were out to excellent bits of fielding; Allen’s stunning running catch, reeled in with only his left hand on the long-on boundary, was the highlight of the evening, coming after Andre Russell (3-43) had removed Marsh with a sharp return grab.

Wicketkeeper Nicholas Pooran, who had earlier blazed 31 off 18, then showed similarly quick instincts when he ran out Moises Henriques.

Darren Bravo (left), Fabian Allen (centre) and Hayden Walsh Jr. of West Indies celebrate the dismissal of Aaron Finch of Australia during the 5th and final T20I between Australia and West Indies at Darren Sammy Cricket Ground, Gros Islet, Saint Lucia, on July 16, 2021. (Photo by Randy Brooks/AFP)

Australia will now sweat on the fitness of Finch, with three ODIs beginning next week in Barbados and potentially another five T20s in Bangladesh next month.

The opener was significantly hobbled during his innings of 34 off 23 having twisted his right knee running an overthrow early in his innings and was holding an ice-pack on it after he was out.

Marsh (2-12 off two and 30 off 15 balls) capped an inspired series with another strong all-round effort, becoming the first man to lead Australia’s runs and wickets charts in a T20I series since Shane Watson at the 2012 T20 World Cup.

After the recalled Josh Philippe’s early exit for a duck in Australia’s run chase, Marsh continued his remarkably fluent form at the batting crease in dispatching half his first 12 balls to over or the boundary.

Australia had earlier kept Russell to just one off three balls, the first time in the series he did not make a key impact with the bat, and will wonder what they have to do to keep the explosive West Indian out of the game.

He snuffed out the attempted comeback started by Matthew Wade (26 off 18) and Alex Carey (9 off 14) by dismissing both, as the middle-order struggles continued.

Moises Henriques (21 off 14), Alex Carey (9 off 14) and Matthew Wade (26 off 18) were unable to make significant contributions.

When Russell had earlier entered with the Windies 168-4 with 32 balls still to be bowled, the hosts had already hit 16 sixes and the record of 22 in an innings (set by Afghanistan against Ireland in 2019) looked under threat.

Leg-spinner Hayden Walsh Jr. was rewarded for his series-leading 12 wickets (Photo: CWI Media)

But a death-bowling rear-guard led by Andrew Tye, who fought back after conceding 18 off his first over and despite two dropped catches off his own bowling (including putting a down a skied return catch), restricted the Windies to just 30 off the final five overs.

Adam Zampa also showed admirable resolve after Chris Gayle belted 20 off his first over to concede just 10 off his next three.

Tye, Philippe, Mitch Swepson and Josh Hazlewood had all been recalled for the series finale as Australia returned to its favoured five-bowler, six-batter team balance.

After the Windies chose to bat first, Lewis begun his rampage in the very first over when he took a liking to Jason Behrendorff (3-37 off four), depositing him for the first of four sixes during a Powerplay that cost Australia 81 runs.

Lewis showed little interest in taking stock, even after reaching fifty off just 23 balls, as he ploughed four consecutive sixes off Tye and Swepson and looked to set to topple Gayle’s 46-ball record for the fastest T20I ton by a West Indian.

The record remained after Lewis was caught by sub fielder Nathan Ellis, a nice moment for the uncapped Hobart Hurricanes bowler who was on the field for only a few balls in Aaron Finch’s place.

Gayle (21 off 7) had blasted his first five balls, off Adam Zampa, for 20 runs to continue his hold over him before fellow leg-spinner Mitchell Swepson removed him with just his third delivery.

Pooran made an equally turbo-charged start to his own innings, cracking 23 from his first balls as he cracked Swepson for three sixes in four balls. (cricket.com.au)

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