Australian players made history when they took a knee against the West Indies on Saturday morning (AEST), while Josh Hazlewood stood tall with the ball to remind selectors why he should be on the plane for this year’s T20 World Cup.
But the big quick’s form was a rare highlight as the Aussies crumbled with the bat to lose by 18 runs on a night that saw the men’s team take a knee for the first time to support the Black Lives Matter movement.
The forgotten man of white ball cricket was at his frugal best on a deck that didn’t offer the quicks much, finishing with an unplayable 3-12 from his four overs that was only spoiled by a six off his final delivery.
Hazlewood had the astonishing figures of 2-3 from three overs in the power play, which included the big scalps of Chris Gayle and Lendl Simmons, who both tried to heave him to the onside off deliveries that weren’t quite short enough.
The 30-year-old quick, playing in just his tenth T20 international, was the pick of the bowlers along with Mitch Marsh (2-26) in a perfect audition for the World Cup.
“It’s hard to judge sometimes,” Hazelwood said of his form, admitting he took a leaf out of the opposition’s book in his new approach to death bowling.
“If you get on a roll early you can get a few overs out when they’re on the defensive. It’s a good challenge and I guess that’s what I’m in the team for to start well and bash that wicket because there was a bit of inconsistent bounce there so I tried to make use of that.”
Pat Cummins is an obvious starter when he comes back, while Jhye Richardson is also high in the pecking order, and that leaves one other spot should the Aussies opt for three quicks in the UAE and Oman.
Mitchell Starc has long been considered the best limited-overs bowler in the country, but he has struggled for form this year and was smacked around late to finish with figures of 0-40 on Saturday.
The world’s fight against racism took a huge step forward on Saturday morning (AEST) when the Australian men’s cricket team took a knee before their T20 international against the West Indies.
The Black Lives Matter movement has been strongly supported in sport across the world following the death of African-American man George Floyd last year, with West Indies great Michael Holding leading the charge in the cricket community.
Holding took aim at Australia and England for not taking a knee during their series last year, but there were no such issues in the first T20 on Saturday when both teams – as well as umpires and support staff – showed their support in St Lucia.
Saturday’s pre-game gesture was the first time the Australian men’s team had taken a knee before an international game, although it was common practice during last season’s Big Bash League.
Australia’s cricket team takes knee alongside West Indies for first time to support BLM
— Fox Cricket (@FoxCricket) July 10, 2021
Australia’s players join their West Indies counterparts in taking a knee in support of Black Lives Matter movement. It’s the first time a senior Australian cricket team has done so. #WIvAUSpic.twitter.com/kRfCymqqaq
— Andrew Wu (@wutube) July 9, 2021
The Australian team released a statement during Saturday’s clash in St Lucia saying they stood with the West Indies in “condemning racial injustice and indiscrimination”.
“As a team we’ll continue to educate ourselves, provide support where possible, and create awareness for those who are victims of racial injustice, and/or discrimination in any form,” the statement read.
“We kneel alongside our West Indian friends to recognise and show our support of all those who have been victims of racial injustice and/or discrimination, past and present.”
Australian quick Josh Hazlewood said the team was keen to show its support in the fight against racial injustice, indicating they would continue to take a knee throughout the series.
“I think we’ve got our set up at home with the barefoot circle, and we hope that touring teams get involved with that,” he said.
“We’re happy to get involved with whatever’s happening on whatever tour we’re on with whatever country we’re playing in.”
Aaron Finch’s woes with the bat continued while Sydney Sixers star Josh Philippe failed to take his chance as Australia’s middle order botched what should have been a comfortable win.
After a horror run in the BBL, Finch managed just four runs before he smacked a full-blooded drive to cover that set the tone for Australia’s wobbly run chase.
Fellow opener Matthew Wade (33 off 14) looked in great touch, belting three sixes before he was caught in the deep, while Mitch Marsh (51 off 31) relished his move up the order to post his highest score at this level.
But they received next to no support as the visitors played a series of awful shots to lose the opening game of the series.
“Any time you lose 6 for 19, you’re going to struggle to win a T20 game,” Finch said of a side missing regulars Steve Smith, David Warner and Glenn Maxwell.
“We just needed someone to take it upon themselves and get us right through to the end. It’s very disappointing.
“A bit of game smarts would have got us over the line, but we panicked a little bit.”
The West Indies seemed to be struggling on the St Lucia pitch as they limped to 3-53 after the first 10 overs, but the arrival of Andre Russell after a comical and slightly controversial run out brought the innings back to life.
Skipper Nicholas Pooran was superbly run out by Josh Philippe, but the batsman had to stop on the boundary after the third umpire was called upon to review an LBW shout on Shimron Hetmyer.
They would have been happy to claim the wicket, but Finch had already reviewed the decision before the run out was sent upstairs. It was a unique scenario, and replays showed Starc’s delivery was sliding past the leg stump.
It brought Russell to the crease, and the big hitting veteran was keen to make up for lost time. He belted five sixes to bring up his first career half-century before he was removed by Hazlewood in the final over for 51 off 28 deliveries.
“We’ll have to have a think about that over the next 24 hours,” Hazlewood replied when asked how the Aussie attack would bowl to Aussie in tomorrow’s second match.
“People have played with and against these guys in IPL, so we’ll have a chat and hopefully come up with something.”