Australia have collapsed to a shocking 18-run loss to the West Indies in their Twenty20 series opener, with Josh Hazlewood’s miserly masterclass overridden by his teammates’ sloppy pursuit of a target of 146.
Hazlewood starred in St Lucia, removing Evin Lewis for a second-ball duck and Chris Gayle for four in an incredible opening spell of 2-3 that helped restrict the hosts to 6-145.
Mitch Marsh scored 51, producing his highest T20 score for Australia after being promoted to first drop, as the visitors marched to 3-89 in the eight over.
But the wheels came off in woeful fashion as a terrible collapse of 7-38 led to Australia being bowled out for 127 in 16 overs.
Marsh, well set and in the box seat to win the match, will be kicking himself after chipping a catch back to spinner Hayden Walsh in the 13th over.
Veteran allrounder Dan Christian, recalled at age 38 for his first international match in almost four years, scored 10 before picking out Dwayne Bravo in the deep.
Paceman Obed McCoy was named man of the match after removing Ashton Agar, Mitchell Starc and Hazlewood to wrap up victory.
The lack of composure was telling, while Marsh, Christian, Moises Henriques (16) and Matthew Wade (33) were the only Australian batsmen to reach double figures.
The target could have been far more modest if not for five sixes from Andre Russell (51), who was dropped on five by Henriques at midwicket.
Australia captain Aaron Finch has made it clear that coming weeks will serve as a selection trial for the World Cup.
Hazlewood was one of few in the XI to enhance their bid for a spot in the World Cup squad, claiming the key wicket of Russell in the final over of the innings to finish with figures of 3-12.
The metronomic paceman was playing just his third T20 for Australia since taking part in the 2016 World Cup.
A congested international schedule hasn’t helped but selectors have preferred Kane Richardson in the shortest format during recent years, while Hazlewood was also memorably overlooked for the one-day World Cup in 2019.
Richardson is among the players to have opted out of the current tour, wanting a break because of biosecurity bubble fatigue.
Hazlewood has a further four T20s in the Caribbean then five T20s in Bangladesh to demand selection in Australia’s first-choice attack at the World Cup, which is being hosted by the UAE and begins in October.