Australia boosted their hopes of reaching the T20 World Cup semi-finals with an eight-wicket victory over defending champions West Indies, who said goodbye to Dwayne Bravo and perhaps Chris Gayle, too.
Australia topped West Indies’ 157-7 with 22 balls to spare in Abu Dhabi, with David Warner (89no off 56) and Mitchell Marsh (53 off 32) putting on 124 for the second wicket in 75 deliveries.
The win tightened Australia’s grip on second spot in Group 1, meaning South Africa must now beat England in Saturday’s second game, and overhaul Australia’s net run-rate in the process, to reach the last four.
There is the slenderest of chances that England could be eliminated on net run-rate but that would require Eoin Morgan’s side to suffer an enormous defeat to the Proteas, with their run-rate incredibly healthy after four wins out of four so far, over West Indies, Bangladesh, Australia and Sri Lanka.
For West Indies, their game against Australia marked the end of an era, with all-rounder Bravo bowing out from international cricket and batter Gayle possibly playing his final game as well, with the way he saluted the crowd after being dismissed for 15 indicating as much.
Gayle, 42, drummed two sixes during his nine-ball stay at the crease, one off Josh Hazlewood and another off Pat Cummins (1-15), before he dragged the latter onto his stumps in the third over at Sheikh Zayed Stadium.
Gayle then came on for a bowl late in the Australia chase and had Marsh caught at mid-off by Jason Holder, before Warner clipped the winning runs off Roston Chase in the 17th over.
Bravo, meanwhile, made 10 from 12 deliveries before he became Hazlewood’s fourth and final victim – Bravo soaking up the occasion as he strolled off and then embracing Gayle.
West Indies skipper Kieron Pollard (44 off 31 balls) top-sored for his side after being dropped on eight by Adam Zampa off the spinner’s own bowling, while Andre Russell (18no off 7) smashed the final two balls of the innings, bowled by Mitchell Starc, for six, with one going 111 metres.
Hazlewood rebounded from being tonked for 20 in the second over – Evin Lewis (29 off 26) nailing three fours in a row before Gayle hauled away a six – to dismiss Nicholas Pooran (4) and Roston Chase (0) in the third and then Shimron Hetmyer (27 off 28) in the 13th.
Spinner Zampa (1-20), save for that drop of Pollard, enjoyed another successful outing with the ball, becoming the leading wicket-taker in the Super 12 stage as he took his number of scalps to 11 when Steve Smith claimed a fine catch at long-on after Lewis skied a googly down the ground.
Zampa had picked up the tournament’s best figures of 5-19 against Bangladesh on Thursday before sitting back and watching his side complete an eight-wicket drubbing
The 29-year-old witnessed another comprehensive chase on Saturday, with Australia losing only captain Aaron Finch (9) – bowled by Akeal Hosein – and then Marsh late on, through perhaps Gayle’s final act in a West Indies shirt.
Bravo is definitely done, though, with the seamer’s final spell of bowling seeming him bag figures of 0-36 from four overs.