In a piece of masterful resolution fuelled by some implacably determined sledging, the West Indies defeated Australia last night. It was reminiscent of the England of 2005, and the England of 2006 should have been watching every ball.
The victory, improbable for much of the proceedings, demonstrated once more that Australia , despite their own admirable publicity, are not invincible. It emphasised that England can also beat them on Saturday to stay in the Champions Trophy if they either stick to the plan hatched in the team meeting, or begin to think on their feet rather than using them to dash for the panic room.
Amid scenes of jubilation (exhibiting that victory over Australia is not to be treated lightly) West Indies won by 10 runs in a match that was not high-scoring and was not low-scoring, but was somewhere around just right. The pitch, like all the rest in this competition, helped the bowlers but it also rewarded batsmen willing to show application.
The performances of Runako Morton and Jerome Taylor were statistically and emotionally remarkable. Morton scored 90 not out from 103 balls after his side had fallen to 63 for 4. That is usually the signal for collapse. It was important that Brian Lara, coming in at six, was there to ensure that he did not waste it.
Morton has wasted much in his life previously. He is the fifth Test cricketer to come from the Leeward island of Nevis (pop 11,000) and has a tempestuous background. He was expelled from the West Indies academy, misbehaved on the West Indies A team tour of England in 2001 and the following year left Sri Lanka on the eve of the Champions Trophy, citing as a reason the need to go home for his grandmother's funeral. It later transpired that one of his grandmothers was still alive and the other had died 16 years previously. Banned for a year, he was later reinstated only to be in further trouble after being involved in the stabbing of a cousin.
He was compelled to seek psychological help and his life has been relatively less traumatic since. Indeed, it had become almost too quiet: in his last one-day game he scored a 31-ball duck, the longest in one-day history. But apart from giving a high chance to cover spurned by Australian captain Ricky Ponting, he was impeccable yesterday.
Taylor's story is more prosaic but he will see the hat-trick he took towards the end of Australia's innings as a reward for the three years he spent out of the game from 2003 with a back injury. He bowled adequately otherwise, as did most of the West Indies bowlers. It was imperative.
How much they craved victory was shown by the aggression of Chris Gayle, usually the king of cool. He may have overstepped the code of conduct in the way he eye-balled Adam Gilchrist and Michael Clarke, regularly upbraiding them and obviously trying to upset their rhythm. Eventually it worked when Gilchrist, who had masterminded Australia's innings and seemed to be heading for his 15th one-day century, perhaps lost concentration for a moment in backing up and was run out.
Australia, who had gradually slipped behind the clock, were always up against it thereafter. Ponting was unhappy with Gayle. "It was pretty animated body language and I thought the aggression and shoulder barging was unacceptable."
The match referee may agree but, after all these years, such censoriousness is still hard to take from Australians.
Ponting was otherwise gracious in defeat and said candidly: "We made mistakes, dropped catches, bowled too many four balls, and we have to improve every aspect of our game."
Much, of course, like England.
* Middlesex have confirmed the signing of the India spinner Murali Kartik for the 2007 season, to be the second of their overseas players after Sri Lanka's Chaminda Vaas agreed a deal last month.
Bad boy Morton hits way into good books
Runako Morton's beautifully regulated innings of 90 not out yesterday represented his continued redemption. He has had much to redeem himself for.
He is the fifth Test cricketer to come from the Leeward island of Nevis (population 12,000) and has a tempestuous past. He was a right handful. Young Ronnie, born in the hamlet of Rawlins, near Gingerland where Horatio Nelson was married to Fanny Nisbet in 1787, was spotted early.
He played for Caribbean age-group teams 10 years ago. Then the trouble began. He was expelled from the West Indies academy after he was late home from his wedding. Then he behaved indecorously on the West Indies A team tour of England in 2002 and was fined part of his match fee.
The following year, promoted to the senior team, Morton left Sri Lanka on the eve of the Champions Trophy, citing the need to go home for the funeral of a grandmother. It later transpired that one of his grandmothers was still alive and the other had died 16 years previously. Banned for a year, he was later reinstated only to be in further trouble after being involved in the stabbing of a cousin.
Morton sought psychological help and his life has been relatively less traumatic since, although the psychologist had reservations.
He made his Test debut belatedly last year when most of the West Indian team went on strike before their tour of Sri Lanka. He has knuckled down since. Indeed, Morton had become almost too quiet: in his last one-day game, also against Australia in Kuala Lumpur, he scored a 31-ball duck, the longest in one-day history.
Apart from giving a high chance to cover spurned by Ricky Ponting, he was impeccable yesterday. The boy from Nevis redeemed before a worldwide audience and beating Australia, to boot.
West Indies won toss
W W Hinds c Ponting b Bracken 1
C H Gayle c Gilchrist b Watson 24
D R Smith c Hogg b Lee 8
R R Sarwan lbw b Clarke 21
R S Morton not out 90
*B C Lara c Symonds b McGrath 71
ÝC S Baugh c Ponting b Bracken 13
M N Samuels not out 1
Extras (lb1 w3 nb1) 5
Total (for 6, 50 overs) 234
Fall: 1-10 2-25 3-47 4-63 5-200 6-233
Did not bat: D J Bravo, I D R Bradshaw, J E Taylor.
Bowling: Lee 8-0-45-1; Bracken 10-1-42-2; McGrath 8-0-42-1; Watson 8-0-34-1; Clarke 5-0-18-1; Symonds 8-0-35-0; Hogg 3-0-17-0.
ÝA C Gilchrist run out 92
S R Watson c Sarwan b Bradshaw 0
*R T Ponting b Taylor 1
D R Martyn c Bravo b Bradshaw 17
A Symonds b Gayle 18
M J Clarke c and b Bravo 47
M E K Hussey b Taylor 13
G B Hogg b Taylor 10
B Lee lbw b Taylor 0
N W Bracken not out 3
G D McGrath not out 3
Extras (lb8 w9 nb3) 20
Total (for 9, 50 overs) 224
Fall: 1-12 2-17 3-44 4-81 5-182 6-206 7-214 8-214 9-219.
Bowling: Bradshaw 10-0-38-2; Taylor 10-0-49-4; D R Smith 3-0-16-0; Samuels 10-1-36-0; Gayle 10-0-39-1; Bravo 6-0-33-1; Sarwan 1-0-5-0.
West Indies win by 10 runs
Umpires: M R Benson (Eng) and R E Koertzen (SA).
West Indies 1/1/0/0/0/2 0.20
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