And then there were two. This tri-series, played across three Caribbean countries – Guyana, St Kitts and Nevis, and Barbados – has spat out its bronze medallist, with South Africa heading home after failing to overcome West Indies on Friday. The final at Kensington Oval will be contested between Australia, the World Cup champions of last year, and West Indies, the hosts of this tournament and current World T20 champions, but a team that has had limited ODI success in recent years.
To lift this trophy would be yet another welcome boost for West Indies in a year that has gladdened the hearts of Caribbean cricket fans. So far, 2016 has brought triumphs for West Indies in the World T20, the Women’s World T20 and the Under-19 World Cup. By comparison, this tri-series is small beer, but small beer is better than no beer. It would also be an encouraging sign for the leadership of Jason Holder (it was Darren Sammy who led West Indies to the World T20 title).
For Australia, the No. 1 ODI side, winning a series such as this might be considered business as usual. But they still have much to play for. Only six of the XI who won the World Cup final are likely to play in this game, and stand-in coach Justin Langer noted that Steven Smith’s ODI side was now trying to make its own mark. “We’ve had great success in the past, but that means nothing, besides the fact that we have a great history and high expectation,” Langer said. “Some of the guys have played in World Cup finals, and that experience is vital, but some of the guys are still finding their way.”
In the spotlight
Mitchell Starc’s immense value to Australia in one-day cricket should not be underestimated. Since the start of 2015, Australia have won 90% of ODIs in which he has played (18 wins from 20 completed games) and only 45% of ODIs in which he has been missing (5 wins from 11 games). He literally doubles Australia’s victory chances. Only twice in that time has Starc played in losses – against New Zealand in Auckland during the World Cup, when he claimed 6 for 28 and could hardly have done any more, and against England in Manchester last September when he had a rare bad day and went for 79 off 10 overs. He is also two wickets shy of becoming the fastest player in history to claim 100 ODI victims.
Despite having made his ODI debut just two matches ago, Shannon Gabriel has already made an impact. His pace and bounce rattled the South Africa top order in their knockout match on Friday, his three early wickets leaving them at 28 for 3. Gabriel picked up a leg injury, though, and bowled only five overs before leaving the field for treatment. He did not bowl again in the game, and West Indies will hope Gabriel is fit for the final.
Australia’s batting order is settled and their main decision is whether to bring the young legspinner Adam Zampa back to add some variety to the attack. Zampa is Australia’s leading wicket-taker in the series and yet has not played the previous two matches after leaking runs against West Indies in the game prior to that. Scott Boland would be the man most likely to make way if Zampa comes in.
Australia (probable): 1 Aaron Finch, 2 Usman Khawaja, 3 Steven Smith (capt), 4 George Bailey, 5 Glenn Maxwell, 6 Mitchell Marsh, 7 Matthew Wade (wk), 8 James Faulkner, 9 Mitchell Starc, 10 Adam Zampa/Scott Boland, 11 Josh Hazlewood
If Gabriel is fit, West Indies will likely take in an unchanged XI. Holder was impressive in collecting 1 for 33 from 10 overs against South Africa, just three days after tweaking his hamstring during a match against Australia.
West Indies (probable): 1 Andre Fletcher, 2 Johnson Charles, 3 Darren Bravo, 4 Marlon Samuels, 5 Denesh Ramdin (wk), 6 Kieron Pollard, 7 Jason Holder (capt), 8 Carlos Brathwaite, 9 Sunil Narine, 10 Sulieman Benn, 11 Shannon Gabriel
Pitch and conditions
The two completed matches at Kensington Oval this series have both produced first-innings totals in the 280s – on one occasion it was ample, on the other occasion it was overhauled. The forecast for Sunday is for fine weather and a top of 28 degrees centigrade.