The West Indies coach Ottis Gibson summed it up best after the tie in the third ODI in St Vincent when he noted that at the same stage last time Australia visited West Indies, the series was over. Australia won the first three games and went on to take the series 5-0. This time the scoreline couldn't be closer going in to the final two matches. The teams are locked at 1-1 and whichever side prevails on Friday knows that at the very least they cannot lose the series. For West Indies, the next two games give them an excellent chance to win a one-day series against Australia for the first time since the days of Richie Richardson's captaincy.
The venue for these last two games is the Beausejour Cricket Ground in St Lucia. Australia have fond memories of the venue: their last match there was the 2007 World Cup semi-final, when they destroyed South Africa. However, only two members of the current side were actually part of that match, Shane Watson and Michael Hussey. Australia are still the No.1-ranked ODI side, but just about everything else has changed in the five years since then.
Remarkably, Australia have won in St Lucia more recently than West Indies. The hosts have a poor recent record at the venue and have not won an ODI there since 2006. Only Dwayne Bravo and Marlon Samuels of their current squad have won a one-day international at the ground. It's a venue that statistically favours the chasing team and although 250-plus first-innings scores were once common at Beausejour the runs have dried up in the past five years - in that time only one team has scored 250 there.
Both teams have made changes after Tuesday's dramatic tie. Australia have aimed to strengthen their batting by including Peter Forrest and they have also brought Ben Hilfenhaus in for his first ODI of the series. West Indies will regain the talented opener Adrian Barath.
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In the spotlight
Friday will be a special day for St Lucia, for it will be the first time the country will host a match featuring two of its own players in the West Indies side: the captain Darren Sammy, and the opening batsman Johnson Charles. A natural boundary-hitter, Charles has increased his contributions as the series has gone on, and he said he would make sure he wasn't "over-eager" in front of his home crowd. "It means a lot to my family and close friends that I have made it into the West Indies team," Charles said. "A few players from my area have represented the St. Lucia team, but I am the first person from my area and from my family to reach this stage of the game, so everyone is happy and they expect the best from me."
George Bailey's one-day international career is only three matches old but already he has shown that he belongs at the level. Scores of 48, 21 and 59 have been impressive batting in the lower middle order in a series in which runs have not been easy to score. He is the leading run-scorer from either side so far in the series and offers a rational, stabilising presence in the batting line-up if early wickets fall.
West Indies will have at least one change after the return of Barath to the squad at the expense of Kieran Powell. But the side has performed well in the past two games and further changes appear unlikely.
West Indies (possible): 1 Adrian Barath, 2 Johnson Charles, 3 Marlon Samuels, 4 Darren Bravo, 5 Dwayne Bravo, 6 Kieron Pollard, 7 Andre Russell, 8 Carlton Baugh (wk), 9 Darren Sammy (capt), 10 Sunil Narine, 11 Kemar Roach.
Australia have made two changes to the team that tied the third ODI. The batsman Forrest will return and the fast bowler Ben Hilfenhaus has been named to play his first match of the tour, while the allrounder Daniel Christian and the offspinner Nathan Lyon have been omitted.
Australia (possible): 1 David Warner, 2 Shane Watson (capt), 3 Peter Forrest, 4 Michael Hussey, 5 David Hussey, 6 George Bailey, 7 Matthew Wade (wk), 8 Brett Lee, 9 Clint McKay, 10 Xavier Doherty, 11 Ben Hilfenhaus.
Pitch and conditions
After three matches on the slow pitches of St Vincent, the teams now move to a new venue in St Lucia. The Australia batsman David Warner said on the day before the game the pitch and outfield looked good. "It looks similar to the WACA with that nice shine and a bit of grass," Warner said. "It's probably not going to come through as much as the WACA does though."
Stats and trivia
- Dwayne Bravo needs 15 runs to reach 2000 in one-day internationals. When he gets there he will be the 17th West Indian to the milestone and the slowest of those, having already played 99 innings
- The teams have met only once in an ODI at this venue. Australia won that game in 2003, and Samuels and Carlton Baugh are the only men* still in either side who played in it
"The team is gaining strength all the time and there are a few characters who are starting to come to the fore."
Ottis Gibson, the West Indies coach
"We've made some bad mistakes in every game. We probably haven't done the basics well enough and we haven't done the one-per-centers well enough."
Mickey Arthur, the Australia coach