It was painful to watch the manner in which West Indies lost to Australia by 15 runs in their second World Cup match in Nottingham yesterday.
And while emotions will run high over the poor standard of umpiring, the bottom line is that careless strokes at crucial stages proved to be the undoing of West Indies.
Chasing 289 to win at Trent Bridge where they brushed aside Pakistan by seven wickets last Friday, West Indies reached 210 for five at the end of the 38th over with captain Jason Holder and fellow all-rounder Andre Russell at the crease.
At that stage, having to score at 6.58 runs an over required level heads, especially when one considered that Mitchell Starc, the key Australian fast bowler, had three overs remaining.
But for all of his tremendous ability to clobber boundaries, Russell seemed impatient.
Off the first ball of the 39th over from left-armer Starc, Russell backed away and missed a heave. Immediately Holder recognised that it was unnecessary and walked down the pitch to have a word with him.
Next ball, Russell again gave himself room by stepping away from leg. The ball was short and he missed a pull.
Off the third delivery, Russell yet again backed away from leg, missed a pull as the ball hit the thigh on its way to long leg and the batsmen took two runs.
Russell then smashed the fourth ball past mid-off to the boundary.
He tried to clobber the fifth over midwicket, got a leading edge and skied it to point. Glenn Maxwell, running out from the circle, took a sensational catch over his shoulder to end Russell’s knock of 15 off 11 balls.
Was Russell’s approach necessary at that stage? No way. It showed he had made up his mind to repeatedly attack. And assuming his captain had told him to play balls on merit, it was puzzling. Picking up singles and twos with the knowledge that boundaries would also come should have meant something to Russell.
Starc was removed from the attack after that over, and Carlos Brathwaite, another batsman with a reputation for big-hitting, joined Holder.
The pair managed to bring the equation down to 38 runs off 30 balls before Starc was brought back. At that stage, West Indies must have been favoured to win, or so we thought.
Holder got a single off the first ball, the second was scoreless and then Brathwaite miscued a slow, low full toss and was caught at mid-on for 16 off 17 balls.
And then the pressure seemingly, suddenly got to Holder. Two balls later he missed a knee high full toss outside the off stump before pulling at a bouncer on the leg stump and gloving it into the hands of short fine leg.
Holder batted solidly for 51 off 57 balls with seven fours and one six but his dismissal left the score 252 for eight after 46 overs and the writing was on the wall.
Starc also accounted for Sheldon Cottrell, bowled by a yorker to make it 256 for nine in the 48th over, as he ended with five for 46.
West Indies were eventually limited to 273 for nine with Ashley Nurse managing four boundaries off the last four balls in scoring 19 not out off 18 balls.
Say what you like, the dismissals of Russell, Brathwaite and Holder hurt West Indies tremendously.
So too was the run out of Shimron Hetmyer for 21 which left the West Indies on 149 for four in the 28th over after he and Shai Hope, who topscored with 68 off 105 balls including seven fours, were batting comfortably, having featured in a partnership of 50 in 8.1 overs.
Opener Evin Lewis, who came in for an out-of-form Darren Bravo, managed just one while Nicholas Pooran batted attractively for 40 off 36 balls in a third wicket stand of 68 off 14.2 overs with Hope.
The umpiring of Chris Gaffaney of New Zealand and Ruchira Palliyaguruge, a Sri Lankan, left a lot to be desired.
Both had two decisions overturned when West Indies were batting and Gaffaney missed a very clear front foot no-ball from Starc the ball before Chris Gayle was dismissed for 21. If the no-ball had been called, Gayle would have had a free hit.
The situation was well put in perspective by former West Indies fast bowler Michael Holding during his live commentaries on television.
“The umpiring in this game has been atrocious,” Holding said. “For one, even when I was playing and you were not as strict as they are now, you were allowed one appeal. You don’t appeal two, three, four times to the umpire.”
“They are being intimidated which means they are weak. This has been an atrocious bit of umpiring by both.”
Gayle reviewed three decisions – all of the bowling of Starc – including two in one over. The first two were overturned. The umpire was Gaffaney.
And twice Holder was given out leg before wicket by Palliyaguruge. The first was off off-spinner Maxwell with the ball pitching just outside leg and the other was off leg-spinner Adam Zampa as the ball was missing leg stump.
But West Indies must also seriously reflect on their performance in the field.
They won the toss and were on top from early, having Australia struggling on 38 for four in the eighth over and then 79 for five by the 17th.
Steve Smith led a recovery, adding 68 in 14.3 overs for the sixth wicket with wicket-keeper Alex Carey, who scored 45 off 55 balls with seven fours and then putting on 102 in 13.4 overs for the seventh wicket with Nathan Coulter-Nile.
Smith scored 73 off 103 balls including seven fours, while Player Of The Match Coulter-Nile slammed 92 off 60 deliveries with eight fours and four sixes.
There were a couple costly misses. When 26 with the score 110 for five off 24 overs, Smith hooked Holder at a catchable height to long leg where Cottrell lost his footing and was late in diving forward, and Coulter-Nile was dropped on 61 by Hetmyer at deep midwicket off off-spinner Nurse with the score 238 for six in the 44th over.
Yet, credit must be given for two outstanding catches. Hope dived full length to his left to pluck the ball one-handed from a thick edge by Usman Khawaja off Russell for 13 (36 for three in the seventh over) and Cottrell’s incredible left-handed grab on the backward square boundary as he sprinted and then flicked the ball up before stepping over the rope and steadying himself back on to the field to hold it, getting rid of Smith off Oshane Thomas in the 45th over (249 for seven).
Australia were bowled out for 288 in 49 overs.
The bowling figures showed: Thomas 10-0-63-2, Cottrell 9-0-56-2, Russell 8-0-41-2, Brathwaite 10-0-67-3, Holder 7-2-28-1, Nurse 5-0-31-0.
The make-up of the bowling has been questioned by Holding, who suggested that it would be better to play veteran pacer Kemar Roach instead of an all-rounder.
Holding’s argument is that West Indies should be aiming to bowl teams out swiftly, especially when they have lost the nucleus of the batting early as was the case with Australia yesterday.
Although he did not call a name in relation to who should be dropped, Brathwaite would appear to be the likely player.
As it stands, however, West Indies need to quickly bounce back with their next two matches against desperate South Africa on Monday and highly fancied England on June 14 – both at Hampshire Bowl in Southampton.
Keith Holder is a veteran, award-winning freelance sports journalist, who has been covering local, regional and International cricket since 1980 as a writer and commentator. He has compiled statistics on the Barbados Cricket Association (BCA) Division 1 (now Elite) Championship for over three-and-a-half decades and is responsible for editing the BCA website (www.bcacricket.org). Email:[email protected]