Australia celebrate a wicket. © CA DIGITAL (Cricket Australia)

Heading in to the home series against Australia, West Indies were on the back foot even before the tourists had touched down on their shores. With Deandra Dottin, Shakera Selman, Chedean Nation and Shemaine Campbelle all ruled out of the series with injuries, the hosts were already missing four of their best XI players. To make matters worse, on the eve of the first ODI Hayley Matthews, their top-order batter, was withdrawn from the squad following an alleged breach of the Cricket West Indies code of conduct. In the very first game, West Indies were playing with what could only be called a second-string side.

Once the series was underway, the injuries kept coming. Kycia Knight hurt her back in the first ODI, while Chinelle Henry, the fast bowler, collapsed in her follow through in the second T20I only to be stretchered off the field. With only one game remaining, the series already lost and the team in shambles, West Indies can only hope for a miracle if they want to topple Australia in the final T20I at the Kensington Oval in Barbados on Wednesday (September 18).

Amidst the rubble, Stafanie Taylor, Shabika Gajnabi and Afy Fletcher have been standout performers for the hosts. While the numbers don’t stack up very promisingly, they have all at various points shown a great deal of character and fight through the series. 

Taylor has desperately tried to hold together a batting unit that has crumbled on every occasion. In the five matches so far, the West Indies skipper has scored 164 runs— the only one from her team to score more than 100 runs— and taken two wickets. Twice, she has batted through the innings while the others have self-destructed. While her back is firmly against the wall, there is no doubt Taylor will try one last time to get her team across the line. She will need to pull off something special.

Fletcher has been, by far, West Indies most impressive bowler. She has displayed wonderful control with her leg-spinners, extracting turn and bounce to trouble Australia’s top order consistently. Fletcher has been largely unlucky not to pick up more than four wickets through the series, with several catches being dropped off her bowling. Aside from her ability to give the ball a real rip, the leg-spinner has shown her talent with the googly as well— deceiving none other than Ellyse Perry with her deceptive variations.

Gajnabi, the 19-year-old-allrounder, in her maiden international series has shown that she has the ability to hold her own at the international level. Her bowling, although not rapid, has been steady, while with the bat, she has displayed great temperament. The right-hander is certainly someone West Indies could look at as a long-term investment.

For Australia, on the other hand, everything seems hunky dory. The top order is in peak form, the bowlers have hit their straps and, as always, they have been immaculate in the field. Meg Lanning and her charges will be keen to take the field for one last time in the Caribbean and put on another dominant display.

They have sealed their fourth consecutive bi-lateral T20I series since the start of 2018, and would do well to complete a double series sweep in the Caribbean. Australia certainly look set for another easy win against an injury- ridden West Indies team. The only question on their minds heading in to the final game would be — should they play around with their combination?

Squads:

West Indies: Stafanie Taylor (c), Reniece Boyce, Afy Fletcher, Chinelle Henry, Shamilia Connell, Stacy Ann King, Natasha McLean, Kycia Knight, Kyshona Knight, Anisa Mohammed, Karishma Ramharack, Shabika Gajnabi, Sheneta Grimmond.

Australia: Meg Lanning (c), Rachael Haynes (vc), Erin Burns, Nicola Carey, Ashleigh Gardner, Heather Graham, Alyssa Healy, Jess Jonassen, Delissa Kimmince, Beth Mooney, Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt, Tayla Vlaeminck, Georgia Wareham

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