“After a nightmare one year of cricket, here is the Australian side on the top of the points table. Finch and Warner are the current top-two leading run-scorers, while Starc and Cummins have their fortress on the top-two spots of the bowling charts”
Yet another close fight and in the end, Australia were again on the winning side.
Aaron Finch’s side has not played their best yet. They have had major batting issues in the middle-order as they are without proper No. 6 batsman, especially during crunch situations. But, their bowlers have continued to shoulder the responsibility, time and again; match after match.
On Saturday, Sri Lanka threatened to chase down 334 in the first 30 overs of their innings. Dimuth Karunaratne was playing a captain’s knock but unfortunately, he missed out on a deserving century by mere three runs. His dismissal followed by the rest of the side falling like nine pins. From 205 for 4, the Lankans were bowled out eventually for 247 in approximately 10 overs. Mitchell Starc once again led the bowling attack as he finished with figures of 4 for 55.
Had he claimed one more scalp, he would have etched his name in the World Cup history for becoming the first-ever bowler with three fifers.
Also read: From a tough confession to a World Cup record, Aaron Finch has come a long way
Starc topped the wickets-chart with 22 victims at 10.18 in the previous edition of the World Cup, which Australia won and registered a record fifth title win. Starc experienced several ups and downs in the next four years, considering he is one of the most injury-prone pacers at present.
The 12 months, prior to the World Cup, were again a tough periord for Starc, who suffered a couple of injuries. He was forced to sit out of last year’s ODI series in England due to an ankle injury and then in the starting of 2019, he sustained a pec problem that ruled him out of the tour of the UAE against Pakistan.
Starc has been Australia’s ace pacer for a long time now and his injuries were a major concern for the defending champions. His pace and accuracy can make any batsman’s life difficult at the crease and his yorkers and short-pitched deliveries were only icing on the cake.
When Starc picked just one wicket in Australia’s World Cup opener against Afghanistan, that would have raised doubts about his fitness. If there were doubts, Starc rubbished them as he spearheaded the attack against West Indies as he claimed his second five-wicket haul in a World Cup game. At Trent Bridge, Australia managed just 288 on the board and hoped their bowlers to finish the job.
The pitch got easy to bat on after a few hours and considering the West Indies’ batting camp included some of the best power-hitters, a target of 289 did not look demanding. But, it was going to be Starc’s day as he and his army did not disappoint. The spearhead swung the new ball, got it to seam around and produced the extra bounce that undid as many as five batsmen.
The spell of 5 for 46 showed the glimpses of old Starc, who ensured Australia triumphed in the end as the reigning champions sealed the nail-biting encounter match by 15 runs.
Against the big side Team India, Starc did not have a great game on a flat deck at the Kia Oval. The unsuccessful result in the match was nothing but a reality check for the Aussie players that over-reliance on Starc and the other bowlers will not fetch them the required result every single time.
However, the Australians have not learned as they have continued to make the same mistakes. In the next two matches, that were against Pakistan and Sri Lanka, the Australians lost their way after a brilliant start from the top-order. They have allowed the opponents to pull the trigger during the death overs as they have suffered a repetitive batting collapse in the middle-order.
Against Pakistan, the openers Finch and David Warner scored a total of 189 runs, while the rest of the side together scored just 118 runs. The pace attack of Starc, Pat Cummins, Kane Richardson, and Nathan Coulter-Nile were once again the saviors of the day who delivered a collective effort with the ball to restrict Pakistan at 266 and hand Australia a 41-run victory. In the latest World Cup match against Sri Lanka, the likes of Finch, Steve Smith, and Maxwell made significant contributions with the bat and once again pushed the pressure on the bowlers to win them the match.
At one point on Saturday, Australia were 273 for 3 and in that rate, they should have scored 350-plus as close to 10 overs were still remaining in their innings. As soon as Smith got out for 73 from 59 balls, no batsman gave the support to Maxwell, who was fighting alone on one end. It was not a tough track to bat on and as the Aussies threw away their wickets, the Lankans did the same. In fact, until Karunaratne was at the crease, Sri Lanka had the match well in hand. Even at 186 for 3, when the Sri Lankan captain got out, Sri Lanka still had a chance as they had the likes of Angelo Matthews, Kusal Mendis and Thisara Perera to come to bat.
While Sri Lanka succumbed under pressure, Starc did not do anything different. He kept his action and run-up simple, bowled at disciplined lines and lengths that forced the batsmen to make mistakes. Four wickets fell in a span of three overs between 35th over and 39th and out of which, three went to intimidating Starc, who eventually finished with figures of 4 for 55. That took Starc’s tally to 13, two clear of the next best, Cummins.
After a nightmare one year of cricket, here is the Australian side on the top of the points table. Finch and Warner are the current top-two leading run-scorers, while Starc and Cummins have their fortress on the top-two spots of the bowling charts. For how long will the bowlers save their side? Bowling 10 rigorous overs every match is no joke. Before they are hit with a sudden downfall, Australia need their batsmen to take charge.