Xavier Doherty enjoyed his first taste of cricket in the West Indies, playing a key role in Australia's 64-run victory in the first ODI in St Vincent. After the debutant George Bailey top scored in Australia's 204 for 8, a total that was difficult to assess at the halfway point on a sluggish pitch, West Indies capitulated to be all out for 140, and their failure was all the more disappointing for the self-inflicted nature of several of the dismissals.
Batting was clearly not easy on a surface with such little pace, but too few of the West Indian batsmen showed the discipline required to stick around and chip away at the target. Darren Sammy displayed some late fight and compiled a 36-run partnership for the last wicket with Kemar Roach, but until that point they had lost their previous six wickets for seven runs.
Prior to that collapse, the chase appeared to be going well as Dwayne Bravo and Marlon Samuels built a confident 64-run stand and went after the spin of Doherty and David Hussey. The Australians hadn't managed to clear the rope at all during their innings but after Bravo pulled a Hussey long-hop for six, Samuels cleared the boundary three times in Doherty's first over.
Those sixes, all down the ground and struck with power, left Doherty scratching his head, but once Daniel Christian broke the partnership by sneaking a ball between bat and pad to bowl Bravo for 32, Doherty began his fightback. He claimed Samuels for 35, the result of both good bowling and a poor shot selection, as the batsman tried to force a ball through leg and instead edged to slip.
Carlton Baugh was lbw for a duck in the same over, attempting a slog sweep, and Andre Russell was stumped for 1, beaten by Doherty's turn and his own impatience. Kieron Pollard was one of the last remaining hopes for West Indies but he too failed to adapt to the slow pitch and chipped Christian to mid-on for 4 from 11 balls.
Doherty finished with 4 for 49 after he had Sunil Narine caught in the deep for a duck. Sammy didn't give up and struck three fours and three sixes, and showed that if someone had stuck around with him West Indies might have remained in the match. He was the last man out, caught at cover off Clint McKay for 35 from 20 balls, and it ended a limp batting display from the hosts.
The innings started encouragingly enough as the debutant opener Johnson Charles swivelled Brett Lee powerfully through midwicket for four in the first over and raced to 13 from 11 balls. But it started to go downhill when he slashed at a wide delivery from McKay and was caught at third man.
Kieran Powell followed for 8 when he pulled Lee to Bailey at midwicket and West Indies were 23 for 2. That soon became 33 for 3 when Darren Bravo pushed to the leg side and took off for a quick single only to be beaten by Lee's direct hit at the bowler's end. Bravo made 4 from 15 balls and West Indies were in trouble. Australia's 204 for 8 was starting to look much better.
It was the fourth time in the past five years Australia had batted through an entire 50-over innings for so few runs, but on all four occasions they have won the game. They had Bailey to thank for getting them up to a defendable score, as the Australians also battled against the slow bowling of Samuels (2 for 29) and Narine (1 for 24).
Bailey's 48 had come from 67 balls and he struck five boundaries before he was caught at deep cover when he skied Roach in the second-last over of the innings. But by ticking the score over as he had, and by taking few risks, he ensured Australia batted out their overs after they slumped to be 99 for 4 in the 27th over.
Shane Watson had won the toss and chosen to bat and while he scored at nearly a run a ball in his 21 at the top of the order, the runs slowed when the ball lost its hardness. Watson was lbw to a Dwayne Bravo delivery that nipped back in and he injudiciously used up Australia's review, the replays showing he was plumb.
David Warner and Peter Forrest added 60 for the second wicket but it was slow going, especially for Forrest, who seemed unable to adjust to the conditions. Forrest had 26 from 64 balls when he was stumped off Samuels, advancing down the pitch and trying to force the run rate up, and it was the first of two wickets in the over as Warner followed four balls later.
Warner had made 40 from 55 deliveries and fell when he punched a catch to cover, where Pollard took a terrific diving one-handed catch. Samuels had got the rewards, but much of the credit also had to go to Narine, who had tied the batsmen down and to that stage had bowled five overs for 12 runs.
Runs came when the bowlers dropped short but when they were fuller, or when changes of pace were employed, the Australians found scoring difficult. Michael Hussey didn't score a boundary in his 32, but like many of the batsmen throughout the day, he fell when he tried to go over the top.
In the end Australia's batsmen showed more discipline than the West Indians, and that was the difference. It's a problem the hosts will need to rectify quickly, ahead of the second ODI on the same ground on Sunday.