West Indies claim first T20 after Australia collapse

West Indies claim first T20 after Australia collapse

Aaron Finch lamented Australia’s lack of composure and “game smarts” after starting their T20 series against West Indies with an embarrassing collapse resulting in an 18-run loss.

Josh Hazlewood’s miserly masterclass helped restrict the hosts to 145-6 in St Lucia, where the metronomic paceman removed Evin Lewis and Chris Gayle in an incredible three-over opening spell of 2-3. Mitch Marsh then scored 51, producing his highest T20 score for Australia after being promoted to first drop, as the visitors marched to 3-89 in the eight over.

But with Australia requiring only 4.1 runs an over with six wickets in hand at the halfway point of their innings, they inexplicably capitulated, losing 6-19 and the match. The wheels came off in spectacular fashion that will prompt fresh questions about Australia’s stars sitting out the trip, and indeed Justin Langer’s plans for the World Cup that begins in October.

Finch, who scored four and will seek to quickly reset for the second T20 that begins on Sunday (AEST), struggled to hide his disappointment after snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. “Anytime you lose 6-19, you’re going to struggle to win,” Finch said. “A bit of game smarts would have got us over the line there but we panicked. Very disappointing … no excuses.”

Marsh looked set to anchor a successful run chase but he will be kicking himself after chipping a catch back to spinner Hayden Walsh in the 13th over. Veteran allrounder Dan Christian, recalled at age 38 for his first international match in almost four years, scored 10 before picking out Dwayne Bravo in the deep amid the chaos. “To start the way we did with the bat, it paved the way to knock it around and play with a bit of cricket smarts. Which we obviously didn’t do,” Hazlewood said.

Finch has made it clear that this series and the ensuing five-match T20 tour of Bangladesh will serve as a selection trial for the World Cup. Hazlewood was one of few Australians to enhance their World Cup prospects, claiming the key wicket of Russell in the final over of the innings to finish with figures of 3-12. Hazlewood was playing just his third T20 for Australia since taking part in the 2016 World Cup.

Obed McCoy was named man of the match after removing Ashton Agar, Mitchell Starc and Hazlewood to end the game.

The target could have been far more modest if not for five sixes from Andre Russell (51), who was dropped on five by Henriques at midwicket.

Australia joined the hosts in taking a knee prior to the start of the series, having been criticised last year for failing to adopt the gesture in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. “We’ll continue to educate ourselves, provide support where possible, and create awareness for those who are victims of racial injustice, and/or discrimination in any form,” the team said in a statement.

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