Australia have cantered to an eight-wicket win over West Indies at a sparsely-populated MCG in their first ODI since stunning India in last year’s World Cup final.
Despite missing six of the XI who claimed a sixth one-day crown in Ahmedabad in November, Australia made light work of an even more decimated Windies unit to secure victory with 69 balls to spare on Friday.
Debutant quick Xavier Bartlett (4-17) claimed the second-best figures by an Australian man on ODI debut to put his team in the box seat after stand-in captain Steve Smith won the toss and elected to bowl.
The Windies managed just 231 on a good batting wicket, with captain Shai Hope later admitting they needed at least 300 for a competitive score.
Smith (79no), promoted allrounder Cameron Green (77no) and wicketkeeper Josh Inglis (65) all enjoyed their time at the crease as Australia went 1-0 up in the three-match series.
Smith and Green started slow but built serious momentum during their unbeaten 149-run stand.
A crowd of just 16,342 turned out to watch Australia’s first white-ball match on home soil since their upset of India in the World Cup final.
An ODI on a Friday in early February against a second-string West Indies side was always going to be a tough sell.
The Windies, who travelled to Melbourne buoyed after securing their remarkable first Test win in Australia since 1997 last Sunday, fought back from the early carnage produced by Bartlett through Keacy Carty and Roston Chase.
But with Carty nearing his first ODI century, the 26-year-old was run-out in chaotic circumstances for 88.
Hayden Walsh was desperate to avoid facing debutant speedster Lance Morris, taking off for a run that was never there, as Sean Abbott threw down the stumps to dismiss Carty and end the Windies’ hopes of posting a defendable total.
Carty and Chase (59) put on a 110-run fifth-wicket stand, but no other visiting player scored more than Walsh’s 20.
Bartlett was the star as he and Morris became the first two Australian debutants to open the bowling at home together in an ODI since Andy Bichel and Anthony Stuart did so at the Gabba in a loss to the Windies in 1997.
Queensland pacer Bartlett bowled Justin Greaves with his third delivery in international cricket, and was 3-8 after his first five overs.
The 25-year-old returned for a late spell, picking up a fourth wicket to go past spinner Stuart MacGill for the second-best figures by an Australian on ODI debut.
Only Tony Dodemaide, a current Australian selector, has done better in his first ODI, taking 5-21 against Sri Lanka in 1988.
“It almost feels like it’s not real,” said Bartlett, who had not played a 50-over game at any level since September 2022.
“To contribute to a good team win is everything you dream of in your debut.”
Morris, who was presented pre-game with his Australian cap by World Cup hero Travis Head, ended with figures of 0-59 from 10 overs in his first international match.
Inglis was one of the five World Cup-winners to take his spot, despite testing positive to COVID-19.
The 28-year-old used a separate dressing-room area and remained distanced from teammates, trying to avoid them becoming unwell too.
The illness didn’t affect his batting, with Inglis opening the batting and racing to his fifty from just 28 balls and finishing with his highest ODI score.
Australia will look to wrap up the series in Sydney when they face the West Indies at the SCG.