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Windies test for stubborn Australia

Colombo, Oct 4, 2012, DHNS: 23:59 IST

Gayle, Watson in focus in semis

Australia's bowler Shane Watson celebrates taking the wicket of Pakistan's batsman Imran Nazir, unseen, during the ICC Twenty20 Cricket World Cup Super Eight match between Australia and Pakistan in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2012 . AP
The controversy surrounding the arrest of a few girls from Chris Gayle’s room wasn’t exactly the build up the West Indies would have hoped for just two days before their semifinal against Australia.

While there seems to be no merit in the case, the incident may have left a bad taste in their mouth. Looking to make their first final of a major ICC event since the 2004 Champions Trophy triumph, the Caribbeans will need their best batsman in the best physical and mental shape to quell a strong Aussie challenge here at the R Premadasa Stadium on Friday night.

Normally a jovial presence on the field, the southpaw appeared a bit subdued during team’s practice on Thursday afternoon but the West Indies will be hoping the ‘Gangnam Style’ will be back in full swing on Friday. The last time the two sides met in a Group ‘B’ encounter, Australia had emerged winners in a rain-truncated affair on Duckworth/Lewis and the one abiding memory of that match was Gayle’s merciless pounding of the Aussie bowlers, an act ably followed up by Marlon Samuels.

Clearly, the Windies will rely on their endless stream of hard-hitting batsmen to get the better of exchanges though their batting has looked a bit off-colour in the last two Super Eight matches against Sri Lanka and New Zealand. While Sri Lanka chased down 130 without a fuss, New Zealand lost in the Super Over after they tied the match chasing 139, facilitating Windies’ progress to the semifinal from Group 1.

In a format where a team with more wins doesn’t necessarily stay in contention for the title, it’s all about performing better than your rivals on a given day. While the Windies are in the semis having just won two matches (including one in Super Over) in the tournament so far, India are out despite four wins in five matches. This is what exactly Darren Sammy and his men are capable of delivering.

The Windies will be aware the key to their success lay in removing the top three in the Australian batting line-up. It was the trio of Shane Watson, David Warner and Michael Hussey that had denied them the victory earlier despite mounting 191/8. The Aussie collapse against Pakistan’s spinners in a Super Eight match, however, would have given some clues to the Men in Maroon as to how to approach their game.

Quite obviously, Windies don’t possess the spin resources that Pakistan enjoy but in Sunil Narine and Samuel Badree they have it in them to trouble the Aussie batsmen if the conditions are in their favour. With five wickets between them, the off-spin and leg-spin combo hasn’t quite set the pitch on fire, but the duo is increasingly looking threatening.

The travails against Pakistan will surely keep the Aussie batsmen a bit wary and there is a good chance of David Hussey replacing all-rounder Glenn Maxwell. The most prolific scorer in the history of T20, the 35-year-old will lend both experience and solidity to the middle-order that was sorely missing once their top was cropped by Pakistan.

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