Melbourne: A West Indies’ whitewash well within their sight and grasp, Australia must be itching to get back on the ground to nail the visitors for the fifth time in a row despite a pretty fresh look to the squad for the fifth and final ODI here at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. On the other hand, the best West Indies can hope for is to take home at least one ODI win by making it 4-1.
Even Kieron Pollard’s ton couldn’t save West Indies from their fourth defeat in the ODI on Friday, which the hosts won by five wickets, but their regular skipper Michael Clarke, Matthew Wade, Mitchell Starc and Glenn Maxwell will not be available for selection in Melbourne. A flare-up of Clarke’s hamstring soreness will keep him out, while Wade, Starc and Maxwell have been flown to India early in preparation of the Test series - which attracts most of Cricket Australia’s focus.
In Clarke’s absence, Shane Watson - who celebrated his return from injury with a century in the third ODI - will wear the captain’s armband, with Brad Haddin being recalled to keep wickets. Shaun Marsh’s good run in domestic cricket this season earned him a recall and he could sneak into the eleven replacing George Bailey, who too is carrying a niggle. Opening batsman David Warner is nursing his thumb injury, which means Aaron Finch should continue to open batting with Watson. Finch is still in search of his first big knock since making his ODI debut against Sri Lanka last month. His highest score so far is 38, which came against the West Indies in Canberra.
Fast bowler Nathan Coulter-Nile has been asked to stay with the squad to provide injury cover. But considering the dead nature of this rubber, a debut for him can’t be ruled out. And since Maxwell is away preparing for the Test series in India, Xavier Doherty may also get a chance to show his tricks before flying to India.
Before his unbeaten 109 in the fourth ODI, Pollard had failed miserably, and the visitors will hope Chris Gayle, who sat out of the fourth game with a side injury, can return fit and do the same. However, he will undergo a fitness test on Sunday before getting a look in. If Gayle were to sit out, responsibility to open will once again fall on the pair of Kieran Powell and Johnson Charles, who will have to provide a solid base for the Bravo brothers - Dwayne and Darren - after the batting line-up, barring Pollard, failed in Sydney.
On the bowling front, Sunil Narine remains a threat for Australia, especially with Warner and Clarke not part of the eleven. But it could be good practice for other batsmen in the line-up before they pad up to face the Indian spinners in the subcontinent. Tino Best replaced Kemar Roach in Sydney and should get another run, considering he bowled pretty well.
Australia: 1 Shane Watson (capt), 2 Aaron Finch, 3 Phillip Hughes, 4 George Bailey/Shaun Marsh, 5 Adam Voges, 6 Brad Haddin (wk), 7 Mitchell Johnson, 8 James Faulkner, 9 Ben Cutting, 10 Clint McKay, 11 Xavier Doherty.
West Indies: 1 Kieron Powell, 2 Johnson Charles/Chris Gayle, 3 Darren Bravo, 4 Dwayne Bravo, 5 Kieron Pollard, 6 Narsingh Deonarine, 7 Devon Thomas (wk), 8 Darren Sammy (capt), 9 Andre Russell, 10 Sunil Narine, 11 Tino Best.