‘I would put this performance up there’ – Hayden Walsh toasts match-turning 3 for 23

Australia
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Aaron Finch bemoans Australia’s lack of a calm head in the chase

Hayden Walsh Jr has put his performance in the opening T20I in St Lucia in the top tier of what he has achieved in his career after helping turn around a contest Australia “could have walked” in what has been a difficult year for him so far.
Legspinner Walsh had tested positive for Covid-19 on West Indies’ tour of Bangladesh at the start of the year and though he was able to return to action in February in the domestic one-day Super50 tournament, he struggled in taking seven wickets at 37.42 with an economy close to seven an over.

“Personally, it’s a sigh of relief,” Walsh told the host broadcaster. “I’ve been preparing for a long while. After my mishap in Bangladesh where I tested positive for Covid, I didn’t really have a good Super50 and I’m really happy that I’m just back. I would put this performance up there, probably one or two.”

This match was his first international outing since late November in a game against New Zealand that was abandoned after two overs, so it was the first time he had bowled at the top level since March.

His opening over cost 10 amid Australia’s power-packed start, but on returning in the 11th over he turned the game on its head by removing Ben McDermott, Mitchell Marsh and Dan Christian as he and Obed McCoy took the last six wickets between them in 34 balls.

“To come in when the pressure is on and Australia could have walked the game at that point, I really enjoyed changing the game there,” he said. “In the team meetings we talked about the huge wind factor. I just really enjoyed just reading the conditions and reading the situation of the game.”

Nicholas Pooran, who was captaining West Indies for the first time with Kieron Pollard nursing a hamstring injury, knew the hosts’ 145 was a little light but also that Andre Russell‘s half-century had given them a chance that looked unlikely halfway through the innings when they sat on 53 for 3.

“What a game! First game as captain, wasn’t expecting this,” he said. “We asked the guys for energy and that’s what they brought. I can’t give the bowlers enough credit. They came out firing the Australians and we knew we needed wickets to win the game. We asked Hayden to keep attacking those stumps, keep asking questions, and Obed McCoy came and won the game for us.”

His opposite number, Aaron Finch, bemoaned Australia’s lack of a calm head in the second half of their innings when the required rate was four an over.

“We just needed somebody to take it upon themselves and get right through to the end,” he said. “After the position that [Marsh] and Wade got us into, just a bit of game smarts would have got us over the line there but sort of panicked a little bit.

“We’ve been working on trying to be a little more aggressive in the middle overs but maybe just need to rein it in today and have some more smarts. I thought the wicket played a little better batting second. There’s no excuses for our batting display there.”

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo