West Indies coach Phil Simmons has credited the side’s top order for driving their four-wicket win over Australia in the ODI tri-series match in Basseterre. Marlon Samuels led the 266-run chase with an aggressive 92, after West Indies benefited from a brisk opening stand of 74 between Johnson Charles and Andre Fletcher, and Darren Bravo’s 39 at No. 3.
Charles and Fletcher took advantage of the short boundaries at Warner Park to collect six fours and three sixes in the first seven overs. Their swift partnership also allowed Samuels and Bravo to settle and forge an 82-run stand for the third wicket. Once Bravo was dismissed in the 31st over, Samuels opened up to attack the Australian bowlers and helped ensure a comfortable victory for West Indies.
“The pressure has been put on the top four to make sure that they set up whatever we have to do at the bottom,” Simmons said. “We know how devastating we can be at the end of an innings with the players we have, so the top four have been asked to put their dancing shoes on and make sure that we are in a position where the latter part of the batting can do what they do, and they’ve done that today and they’ve seen us through.”
The 87-ball 92 was Samuels’ second fifty across formats in 2016, after his match-winning 85 not out in the World T20 final against England in April. He had a poor tour of Australia in December-January – scoring only 35 runs in five innings of the three-Test series – and copped heavy criticism, and one of his critics was former Australia legspinner Shane Warne, with whom he had an infamous run-in during the Big Bash in 2013. After his Man-of-the-Match winning knock in the World T20 final, Samuels made a reference to those comments and dedicated his award to Warne. Simmons, however, believed Samuels had left those feelings at the World T20.
“I think the fact that he has taken us to victory in the game will be enough for him. I don’t think he’s still worrying about what some people in Australia said,” he said. “I think he answered that in the World T20 final. I think he’s left that there. He’s just happy to score the runs and help the team win.”
The West Indies coach stressed the importance of the experience that Samuels and Kieron Pollard brought to the their line-up. Charles and Fletcher have opened in only six ODIs so far and with a young captain in Jason Holder, Simmons believed Samuels and Pollard were important to the side.
“In every team you can see there’s experience. You have to have experience all through the team,” he said. “Most of the teams in the world, you have young guys coming in, but only one or two [youngsters] and the rest of the team is experienced veterans, you would call them; after five years, you are a veteran. It’s great to have him, it’s great to have Pollard back because he’s experienced in limited-overs cricket, young Bravo is getting there. So it’s great to have that sort of experience especially where Jason is a young captain and Carlos [Brathwaite] is young.”
Despite the victory, Simmons had an area of concern he wanted the side to address, specifically the importance of set batsmen carrying on and finishing the game.
“Marlon and Bravo finishing off the game rather than somebody getting out. It’s a case where we have two guys who have put us in a position and they need to carry on. I think there can be a little bit of improvement,” he said. “We are always looking to improve our fielding, which I think today was as good as it has been. And I think we are looking to improve on where we bowl in the first 10 overs and things like that.” (ESPNCricinfo)