Hayden Walsh Jr had a brilliant match with the ball, grabbing a maiden ODI five-wicket haul to restrict Australia to 252 for nine. But the leg-spinner’s hard work was undone by a West Indies top-order batting collapse.
Set a revised target of 257 to win off 49 overs, the West Indies top-order crashed as the hosts were dismissed for 123 to lose the opening match of the three-game series by 133 runs on the Duckworth-Lewis-Stern method at Kensington Oval in Barbados.
After winning the toss and batting first, Australia started positively before falling away in the final ten overs of their innings, with Walsh doing the damage with five wickets for 39 runs in the back end to shift the momentum in West Indies’ favour.
But the hosts couldn’t capitalise, losing six wickets in the first eight overs of the chase to all but concede the first match.
Mitchell Starc was on fire for the visitors, grabbing five for 48 to rock the West Indies who were without the injured Shai Hope.
The left-armer removed Evin Lewis off the first ball of the run chase. Squared up, he offered a simple return catch to the bowler. And Starc followed up with the wickets of Jason Mohammed (two) and Nicholas Pooran (zero), while Josh Hazlewood accounted for Shimron Hetmyer (11), Darren Bravo (two) and Jason Holder (zero).
However, skipper Kieron Pollard, returning to action after missing the preceding five-match T20I series due to injury, joined with Alzarri Joseph to delay the Australian victory charge with an entertaining seventh wicket stand worth 68.
After getting off the mark with a streaky four off Starc, Pollard opened up against Adam Zampa, hitting the leg-spinner for a six and four to the long on region while Joseph pulled Hazlewood for a six over deep mid-wicket.
Pollard continued to go after Zampa with two more sixes down the ground and a four to the third-man boundary as he raced to 44 off just 31 balls.
Another four pulled off Ashton Agar took the Windies skipper to 49 and a single got him to his 12th ODI half century which came off 41 balls and included three sixes and five fours.
However, the seventh wicket pair was separated shortly after, with Joseph being bowled by Marsh for 17 before Pollard departed, caught at slip by Ashton Turner for 56.
Starc completed his five-wicket haul with the wicket of Akeal Hosein for a “duck” as the Aussies dominated the first match of the series.
Earlier when Australia batted, they got off to a solid start through a 51-run stand between Ben McDermott (28) and Josh Philippe (39). The Windies bowlers pulled the scoring rate back with left-arm spinner Hosein breaking the opening stand as Philippe, attempting a cut shot, got an under-edge onto his stumps.
Fast bowler Joseph then came up trumps with the big wicket of Mitchell Marsh (20), who was one of the stand-out players in the preceding T20I series.
Initially given not out by umpire Joel Wilson, the Windies asked for a review for a catch down the leg-side. Replays showed the ball came off the gloves and Marsh was sent on his way.
Hosein and Joseph continued to hunt in tandem for wickets and combined to send back Moises Henriques (seven) as the batsman attempted a slog-sweep and top-edged to Joseph at short fine-leg.
Australia were reduced to 114 for four at the half-way stage, with Joseph getting his second wicket of the match as McDermott got a thick edge to the lone slip fielder, Holder.
But the visitors showed the fight that Windies skipper Pollard said he admired about them, as stand-in Australian captain Alex Carey and Ashton Turner combined to revive the innings with a 104-run stand for the fifth wicket.
Carey, leading the team in the absence of the injured Aaron Finch brought up his fifth ODI half century with a six off Holder over long-off . But he and Turner were low on the boundary count, the pair only scoring three in a ten over stretch from the 30th to the 40th over.
But they tried to up the tempo in the final ten overs, with Turner smashing Holder over mid-on for his first six of the match. He followed up with a top edge that flew over the fine-leg boundary as Australia reached 206 for four after 42 overs when the players had to leave the field for a third time due to rain.
However, after the delay, Walsh intervened to send back both men in the 45th over.
Carey was first to go, attempting a sweep shot and missing completely with the ball going on to clip the leg-stump. Four balls later, Turner, who was one run away from a second ODI half-century, attempted a similar shot and found Lewis running in from the square-leg boundary to take a simple catch in the end.
Leg-spinner Walsh –drafted into the squad late as a replacement for the injured Roston Chase - continued to impress with the ball, getting the wicket of Starc for eight and then Matthew Wade for three, before returning in the final over to complete his set of five, with Wes Agar being stumped off a wide ball for nine.
The Windies bowlers had done the job again. But their batsmen failed the Starc test.
The two sides will meet in the second ODI at the same venue on Thursday with the final match set to be played on Saturday.
Australia 252-9, 49 overs (Alex Carey 67, Ashton Turner 49, Josh Philippe 39; Hayden Walsh Jr 5/39, Akeal Hosein 2/50, Alzarri Joseph 2/40) vs West Indies (revised target 257, 49 overs) 123 all out, 26.2 overs (Kieron Pollard 56, Hayden Walsh Jr 20; Mitchell Starc 5/48, Josh Hazlewood 3/11)
--Australia won by 133 runs