Taylor triple stuns Australia

A Jerome Taylor hat-trick sealed a sensational victory for the West Indies in the second Group A game of the 2006 Champions Trophy, after Runako Morton and Brian Lara repaired an earlier batting collapse to set Australia 235 to win.

To begin with, the West Indies looked like continuing the theme of the tournament so far – low scores on pitches that aren’t quite as difficult as they are made to look. They lost Wavell Hinds early on to the bowling of Nathan Bracken, poking at one outside his off-stump, and when the decision to promote Dwayne Smith to number three backfired to leave them on 25-2, things looked grim. One would have expected to see the assured figure of Brian Lara walking out in such circumstances, but instead his vice-captain, Ramnaresh Sarwan, emerged from the pavilion, as news filtered through that Lara would be batting in the unfamiliar position of number six.

Sarwan and Chris Gayle set about building a partnership of sorts, with Gayle motoring along as he is prone to do. He had reached 24 off 26 balls when he tickled Shane Watson’s medium-pace through to Adam Gilchrist behind the
stumps, and the West Indies slipped deeper into the mire. Sarwan fared no better, making 21 before becoming the victim of a Michael Clarke arm-ball as he was trapped lbw.

At 63-4, the innings was in danger of collapsing severely. However, that’s where having BC Lara at number six on the scorecard comes in extremely useful. Lara and Runako Morton set about rebuilding the West Indian innings with a precision and calmness rarely seen in West Indian cricket these days. They proceeded through the middle overs at a stead pace, with Morton, having replaced the indisposed Shivnarine Chanderpaul in the lineup, showing no little flair and composure. Despite being dropped by Ricky Ponting, scrambling backwards at cover on 41, Morton proceeded to an impressive 50 in good time.

Lara, meanwhile, was doing as Lara does. Starting sedately, he moved into an extra gear as the slog overs approached, striking a dismissive six over midwicket off Shane Watson and flicking Lee nonchalantly away for another maximum. His 71 from 94 balls – eventually ended by a back spasm that forced him to push onwards and pick out Andrew Symonds at cover – was crucial in the Windies’ recovery from a poor position. The 137-run partnership between the captain and Morton took their side to 200 by the time Lara was dismissed by Glenn McGrath (for only the second time in ODIs), and they were back in the game.

Morton was in no mood to slow down, however, striking a McGrath slower ball for a six of his own, and he was joined by Carlton Baugh and Marlon Samuels in adding 34 more to the score. A total of 234-6 from their 50 overs was more than the West Indies could have hoped for after their poor start, and would certainly prove a test for the unsettled Australian batting lineup.

Adam Gilchrist started as if it was inconsequential. Jerome Taylor and Ian Bradshaw both strayed onto the Australian keeper’s pads, and were punished for it. Then Shane Watson decided that a back-of-a-length ball outside the off stump deserved the same mid-wicket treatment, and skied it to stand-in skipper Sarwan at mid on for a three-ball duck. Suddenly it wasn’t just the Caribbean top order that were capable of wobbling, and when an off-balance Ponting dragged Taylor onto his own wicket, any illusions that the runchase would be an exercise in going through the motions were dispelled.

Neither Damien Martyn nor Andrew Symonds were able to impose themselves on the West Indian bowling – Martyn perishing to a diving Dwayne Bravo at point off Bradshaw before Chris Gayle skidded through Symonds’ ambitions footwork to haul the Australians back to 81-4 after 20 overs. Michael Clarke was left to join Gilchrist to reprise the Morton-Lara liaison throughout the middle overs, and the run rate crept upwards as the climax approached – but with wickets in hand, the batting side were still favourites.

Then the subscript started. Gayle and Clarke were at one another’s throats all of a sudden, and it wasn’t one-off banter. Gilchrist escaped a loud LBW shout against the spinner, Marlon Samuels got involved and the exchanges went on after-overs, until Sarwan and umpire Mark Benson intervened. It seemed that Gayle had lost his cool, and Australia hadn’t – the equation was a run a ball, but the pressure was on the Windies. Then the batters missed their cue. Clarke guided the off-spinner to Wavell Hinds at short third man, Gilchrist hared down the wicket, and the striker stood, said ‘no’, watched Gilchrist fall short of his ground, and then heard Gayle tell him exactly what he thought.

With Michael Hussey and his 81-run average next in, the match was still the Aussies’ to lose, and when Gayle hurled Clarke’s gentle defensive push high over Carlton Baugh’s gloves to the fine leg boundary for four bizarre overthrows, it was still green and gold. Clarke and Hussey continued to work Gayle and his fellow brisk off-spinner Samuels around for singles and twos, and with four overs left, Australia needed 29.

Then Clarke chipped Dwayne Bravo’s first ball back to the man whose name has become synonymous with stellar return catches. This one was routine, however, and the tail was exposed as the run-rate edged upwards – but Hussey was still there as Jerome Taylor charged in from the edge of the thirty-yard circle. The batsman shimmied forwards and set himself to hammer the ball over midwicket. The ball fizzed into the off stump.

The West Indians celebrated as if the game were won, and as Taylor’s next ball rapped Brett Lee’s front pad it front of the stumps, it was in all but routine. Brad Hogg’s improvisation was insufficient to take toll of Bravo, and as the first ball of the final over turned an ask of 16 from 6 with two wickets to 16 off 5 with one wicket, the left-hander’s splattered stumps were evidence of a sensational hat-trick. McGrath and Bracken’s batting never threatened a miracle, and the Windies completed a stunning 10-run win.

India and the West Indies can now put themselves onto the brink of qualifying with a win on Thursday, whilst on Saturday the Australians face England. A nothing game in an inconsequential tournament has become win-or-bust, with a side order of pre-Ashes significance. There’s so much more than a semi final berth at stake.

West Indies 234-6
Runako Morton 90*, Brian Lara 71
Nathan Bracken 2-42, Michael Clarke 1-18

West Indies (2pts) beat Australia (0) by 10 runs

Australia 224-9
Adam Gilchrist 92, Michael Clarke 47
Jerome Taylor 4-49, Ian Bradshaw 2-38

Cricket Web Player of the Match
Jerome Taylor (West Indies)

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