GROS ISLET – Left-handed opener Evin Lewis stood out with his ninth Twenty20 International fifty as West Indies completed a series win of any kind over Australia for the first time in 26 years, with a comfortable 16-run victory in St Lucia on Friday night.
Choosing to bat first in the final game after stand-in skipper Nicholas Pooran got lucky with the toss for the first time in the five-match series, West Indies raced to 199 for eight off their 20 overs – their second-highest total ever against Australia.
Lewis top-scored with a savage 79 off just 34 deliveries to earn Man-of-the-Match honours, while captain Pooran chipped in with 31 off 18 balls.
On 124 for three at the half-way stage, West Indies looked set for a total well in excess of 200 runs but the runs dried up and they managed only 30 in the last five overs of the innings.
Central to this effort was fast bowler Andrew Tye, who took key wickets at the back end to finish with three for 37, in his first outing of the series, while fellow pacer Mitchell Marsh (2-12) and leg-spinner Adam Zampa (2-30) provided support.
In reply, Australia lost Josh Philippe without scoring to the sixth delivery of the run chase and with no meaningful partnerships emerging, finished on 183 for nine off their 20 overs.
Captain Aaron Finch top-scored with 34 off 23 balls, Marsh gathered 30 off 15 balls and Matthew Wade got 26 from 18 deliveries, but left-arm strike bowler Sheldon Cottrell (3-28) and pacer Andre Russell (3-43) grabbed three wickets apiece to disrupt the latter half of the innings.
“It’s a wonderful achievement, not only for myself but for my team,” Pooran said of the 4-1 series win.
“We’ve worked really hard, especially from losing that last series [against South Africa]. We wanted to come here and play proper cricket.
“We actually wanted to win five-nil but unfortunately we’ll take 4-1. We’re thankful. We’ve still come out with a series victory and that has been a lot for our team.”
The first half of the West Indies innings belonged to Lewis, the 29-year-old dominating a 40-run, opening stand with Andre Fletcher (12), a 43-run, second wicket partnership with Chris Gayle (21) before adding a further 41 for the third wicket with Lendl Simmons (21).
He blasted four fours and nine sixes, taking 21 runs off the fifth over from pacer Jason Behrendorff before bringing up his half-century in the eighth over with a boundary to backward point off Tye.
When Lewis holed out to cover off Marsh at the end of the 11th, Pooran and Simmons added 44 off 22 deliveries for the fourth wicket as West Indies laid the platform for a grandstand finish.
But Pooran, who struck three sixes and a four – all in the 13th over from leg-spinner Mitchell Swepson which leaked 25 runs – was one of four wickets to fall off the last 30 balls as the Aussies hit back strongly.
“I thought the way we defended ourselves in the [last] ten overs in this game [was impressive],” Finch said.
“We were staring down the barrel of 220, 230, maybe more at one point so to drag it back was really impressive. Evin Lewis played a hell of a knock and once players like that get in, they put so much pressure on you.”
Cottrell then struck in the first over, Philippe pulling at a short ball and skying to Simmons at mid-wicket with nine runs on the board, before Finch revived the innings first in a 37-run, second wicket stand with Marsh and then in a 49-run, third wicket partnership with Moises Henriques (21).
Finch lashed half-dozen fours and was aiming for his seventh when he lifted a Hayden Walsh full toss straight back overhead, only for Fabian Allen to sprint around from long on and fling himself full-stretch, to pull off an absolutely stunning one-handed catch low to the turf.
That moment of brilliance changed the game as wicketkeeper Pooran’s direct hit at the striker’s end two balls later in the same over removed Henriques as he scampered a single, as Australia folded, losing seven wickets for 73 runs.
WEST INDIES 199 for eight off 20 overs (Evin Lewis 79, Nicholas Pooran 31; Mitchell Marsh 2-12, Adam Zampa 2-30)
AUSTRALIA 183 for nine off 20 overs (Aaron Finch 34, Mitchell Marsh 30, Matthew Wade 26; Sheldon Cottrell 3-28, Andre Russell 3-43)
West Indies won by 16 runs.