Mitchell Starc has always hurt New Zealand when it comes to the ICC Cricket World Cup. His spell of 6/28 in Auckland in 2015 almost helped Australia pull off an improbable win in their defense of 152. In the final, he yorked Brendon McCullum and ensured the title came to Australia for the fifth time. At Lord’s in the 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup clash on Saturday, Starc put on yet another exhibition of left-arm pace bowling as Australia recovered from a Trent Boult hat-trick to win by 86 runs. For New Zealand, it was their second straight loss and their last game against England could be a tricky proposition as Kane Williamson’s side slump at a wrong time.
Much as Australia withstood a brilliant spell from Boult, the recovery was primarily due to Usman Khawaja’s stellar 88 and his 107-run stand with Alex Carey after Australia, who chose to bat, suffered a top-order slump. Aaron Finch, who has been in fine form, was given a reprieve on 0 when Martin Guptill dropped him off Colin de Grandhomme. However, that did not prove costly as Boult trapped Finch in front for eight.
Khawaja came out and he was also dropped on 0 by Guptill off Boult and this proved to be costly. Warner struck a couple of boundaries but he was undone by Lockie Ferguson’s first ball as he gloved a pacy, short ball to Tom Latham. Guptill made up for his mistake when Steve Smith flicked Ferguson to leg gully only for Guptill to dive to his left and take the catch. The athletic effort even mad Sean Fitzpatrick, the legendary All Blacks Rugby captain, sit up and appreciate the effort.
Marcus Stoinis started off with three attractive boundaries while Khawaja focused on dropping anchor. When Jimmy Neesham dismissed Stoinis and Glenn Maxwell in succession, Australia were in trouble but they were boosted by Alex Carey. Carey batted with confidence and together with Khawaja, restored the innings to some respectability. New Zealand did not help themselves when Latham dropped Khawaja off Neesham on 35.
The left-hander duly notched up his 12th fifty while Carey was scoring at better than a run-a-ball. New Zealand missed a run-out of Khawaja and Carey notched up his fifty with two fours in one over bowled by Neesham. The stage was set for a late-over onslaught but Kane Williamson with his offbreaks broke the stand with Carey driving a flighted delivery straight to Guptill at extra cover.
Australia lost some momentum and Khawaja tried his best to revive the innings with some boundaries at the death but Boult ended it in style by becoming the first New Zealand bowler to take a hat-trick in the World Cup. This was the left-armer’s second hat-trick as he got rid of Khawaja, Mitchell Starc and Jason Behrendorff with reverse swinging yorkers. New Zealand had the momentum heading into the break as Australia were restricted to 243/9.
In response, New Zealand started confidently with Henry Nicholls, brought into the side in place of an out of form Colin Munro, striking two fours off Starc in the sixth over. However, Behrendroff, who took his maiden five-wicket haul in the match against England broke the stand when Nicholls fell for eight. Guptill’s poor World Cup continued when Behrendroff trapped him LBW for 20.
Williamson was given a life on 11 when Smith dropped him at slip off Nathan Lyon. The New Zealand skipper and Ross Taylor looked to build a partnership. Wiliamson was again dropped on 14 when Carey failed to grasp an edge off Behrendorff. The partnership between Taylor and Williamson went past fifty, with Williamson blasting a six off Stoinis and going past 6000 ODI runs. However, Starc changed the course of the match when Williamson edged to Carey for 40 and New Zealand faced an uphill task.
When Pat Cummins sent back Taylor for 22, Australia were on the cusp of a win and when Smith, bowling his occasional legbreaks sent back Colin de Grandhomme for a golden duck, the writing was on the wall. Starc came back and wrapped up the tail in style as he ended with yet another five-wicket haul to go past his 2015 tally of wickets.
Australia’s comprehensive win has made them serious contenders for the title and they will be aiming to finish on top with a win against South Africa while for New Zealand, the next couple of days could prove to be very difficult in their World Cup campaign.