Aaron Finch and Matthew Wade revived Australia’s run chase before Mitchell Starc clinched the three-wicket win with a ball to spare on Wednesday in a dramatic last over of the series-opening Twenty20 international against West Indies.
Both teams are using the two-game series to fine-tune for the T20 World Cup later this month.
West Indies posted 145-9 after being sent in to bat and then had Australia at 21-2 in reply when paceman Sheldon Cottrell dismissed David Warner and Mitch Marsh in the second over.
That brought regular opener Finch to the crease at No. 4 and he scored 58 runs from 53 balls despite Australia slipping to 58-5 in the eighth over, sharing a 69-run sixth-wicket stand with Wade.
When he was out, caught in the outfield trying to hit Alzarri Joseph (2-17) over mid-wicket, Australia still needed 19 runs off 17 deliveries.
Odean Smith made it more interesting when he bowled Pat Cummins (4) in the penultimate over, leaving Australia requiring 11 runs off six deliveries.
Cottrell conceded 38 runs in his first three overs but was given the ball for the final over, which started with Wade hitting a boundary to reduce Australia’s target to seven runs off five balls.
But Cottrell was unlucky twice not to pick up wickets, with Wade and then Starc both dropped in the outfield attempting to hit a winning boundary.
Starc (6 not out) eventually got the Australians to 146-7 in 19.5 overs. Wade was unbeaten on 39 off 29 deliveries.
“Got a little bit close there,” Finch said in his post-match TV interview. “Nice to get across the line in a close one.”
Finch said he batted down the order to let allrounder Cameron Green continue opening but said there were likely to be changes for the second game in Brisbane on Friday as his team prepares to defend its T20 world title.
“We’re going to keep tinkering with things just to make sure we’ve got all the bases covered going into the World Cup,” he said.
The West Indies arrived in Australia this week in the wake of the Caribbean Premier League season, forced to make a late change to the squad when Shimron Hetmyer missed a scheduled flight and was replaced by Shamarh Brooks.
Seven players in the squad featured in the CPL final last Friday, so West Indies skipper Nicholas Pooran said pushing Australia to the last over was a positive sign for a team struggling with travel fatigue.
“Definitely tough at the end. We had our chance to win the game … We messed it up,” he said. “Catches win matches. Obviously we paid the price again.”
A blazing start from left-handed opener Kyle Mayers, who heaved a six over extra cover and hit five boundaries in his 39, and contributions from Smith (27) against a full-strength Australian bowling attack were good signs for the West Indies batting, although shot selection and impatience were costly.
The West Indies will play two T20s against Australia this week and two unofficial warmup games in Melbourne next week before beginning the preliminary round of the T20 World Cup on October 17 against Scotland in Hobart.