Following a dismal show against South Africa, West Indies had another go at their group-mate, Australia in the five-match T20I series, which was bound to test their limits. But in reality, it only made the Windies side stronger and potentially, a prime contender for winning the 2021 World T20.
The Evin Lewis show in the powerplay
Prior to this series, there was an element of doubt over Evin Lewis’ show in the Windies setup, whether he could and would take it up a notch post his breezy start with the bat. The answer perennially surrounded the path resembling no but against Australia, he took it personally, very personally in fact. In three innings against the visitors, the southpaw scored 77 runs from 33 deliveries, averaging 38.5, at a strike rate of 233.3. Now isn’t that less? Especially from an opener, who faces so many deliveries? Well, the statistics above are only from the first six overs, which shows why West Indies were dominant in the first phase of their innings, all down to one man.
Thanks to Lewis’ blitzkrieg, the home side scored 75 and 81 runs in their powerplay phase in the fourth and fifth T20I respectively. Now it is not to say that he was disappointing in the South Africa series but the expectations were plenty from the left-hander, which was rightfully proven in the series against Australia. In 2021, comfortably by a country-mile distance, West Indies can call themselves the leader in the powerplay phase, with 709 runs in the 468 deliveries, all coming at a strike rate of 151.50, the best among the top nations, who have made the initial draw of the Super 12s for the World T20.
Finally, the veterans ‘universally’ boss the party
While Dwayne Bravo continued his success from the South African series, Chris Gayle was waiting in the bank, yet to leave the opponents in a state of sweaty pool. Ahead of the series, it was almost certain that it was Gayle’s opportunity to showcase to the world that he has still got it as he came back from his injury concern to brush off the rust in a Kings XI Punjab jersey. Like that time where he casually walked out at No.3 and notched up a 99 without any worries, you get the drift, don’t you? So in hindsight, it was all set for the left-hander to come up and take his batting to the next level, especially considering Kieron Pollard was missing the series.
He did it in his own style, with 106 runs in the series, including a 67 off just 38 balls, at a strike rate of 143.24. But what was more impressive throughout the series, is how the two stepped up with the ball. When required Gayle bowled and picked up a wicket and just conceded at 4.38 RPO, that’s Gayle, who were talking about. For Bravo, the stage was set, be it his whacky unbeaten 47, where he was casually flicking the ball off his leg, or his slower deliveries that tumbled down the scoring rate, he was involved in all of it. So in Pollard’s absence, it is safe to say that the veterans were finally bossing the party.
Hayden Walsh Jr’s timely return to snug the spinner role
All talks of the Australian spinners - Adam Zampa and Ashton Agar - there was Hayden Walsh Jr, patiently waiting for his opportunity to seize that spinner role that had seemingly slipped past him in the recent months. Across the five games, he was in fact, the most skilled bowler in the two teams and bowled at a level of control that was never seen from him. If Zampa had bowled 44 dot deliveries, the Windies leg-spinner wasn’t too far away, with 41 of his own but his average and strike rate is what perhaps, makes him the best possible option in the World T20 for West Indies.
Back in 2020, against Ireland at home, the leg-spinner had put one of his worst displays in the Windies national jersey, with just one wicket, at an average of 63 and an economy rate of 9. However, all those wounds have been sorted and sorted out well, against a team that has time and again struggled against quality spin. Against Australia, Hayden Walsh Jr picked up 12 wickets, averaging 11.66 while striking in the tenth delivery. With Fabian Allen all set to play as an all-rounder, considering his performance in the series, the leg-spinner’s performance will surely make the management happy.
A Kieron Pollard-less middle-order holds the fort
In Kieron Pollard’s absence, the Windies middle-order had to step up, with stand-in skipper Nicholas Pooran having to find his form in the international scene. When required, the four stars, Pooran, Shimron Hetmyer, Dwayne Bravo and Chris Gayle assumed responsibility with the bat and played sensibly in the series. One of the weaker points for the Windies line-up prior to the series was their ability to play spin. Against South Africa, the middle-order was time and again stalled by the bowling performance from George Linde and Tabraiz Shamsi. But against Australia, the story ended differently, with the Windies batting also forcing Ashton Agar out of the Australian lineup by the end of the series.
Hetymer scored 81 runs, averaging 40.50 in the series, at a strike rate of 132.78, including a match-winning knock of 61. Alongside him, stand-in skipper Pooran found form, with 96 runs in the series. But the biggest positives were, in fact, Gayle and Bravo, who scored 106 and 61 runs respectively to hold the middle-order while Andre Russell took over the finishing role from Kieron Pollard. In all fairness, the Australian spinners combined to bowl just 25 overs, conceding 199 runs while picking up just five wickets in total, at a near economy rate of 8, suggesting that West Indies had learnt their lessons from the South Africa series, where they struggled to counter spin. In fact, West Indies scored at a near strike rate of 142 against the spinners, averaging almost close to 36, which shows their progress against the slower bowlers.
Fabian Allen steals the show
While the rest of the unit might have put on a show, Fabian Allen really showed that this Windies side bats deep and can send the ball orbital, at any batting position. With the bat, Allen in his limited opportunity, smacked two boundaries and three sixes, nearly taking the hosts home in the fourth clash against Australia. In total, he ended up with 38 runs in the series, in just three innings, showcasing that his place in the playing XI is all but cemented. In the field, he was a live wire, in fact, his outstanding catch was the only way West Indies could have dismissed the in-form Aaron Finch in the final clash. Throughout the series, as rightly pointed out by Hayden Walsh Jr, Allen was the hosts’ best fielder and put on a gun-like performance in the field, with seven catches.
Apart from his lusty hitting and incredible fielding, Allen bowled with utmost control in the powerplay overs, striking four times in the series. While his average might be on the higher side, given that he has to bowl the tough overs for the Caribbean side, his economy rate at 7.33 suggested that he could bowl the tight overs upfront and ended up taking away the quickstarts from Australia. If Windies are indeed looking confident, across all the three departments, Fabian Allen might very well be the reason, putting on splendid performance throughout the series.