ICC World Cup 2019: Jason Behrendorff shines as Australia book semis berth with win over England
England are not kaput yet but a defeat as demoralising as this could prompt a rethink on their World Cup billing.
The Ashes is still some time away but England got a feel of what’s coming their way in August as the defending champions meticulously dismantled them to reach the semi-finals while upturning the points table and throwing the World Cup wide open. All the talk of England’s batting prowess before the World Cup came to naught in the match that mattered most after Australia were buoyed by some old school batting from David Warner and Aaron Finch.
Never in 24 matches before this had Australia lost defending a score above 275. And their bowlers came out displaying the determination to make it 25. Jason Behrendorff bowled full and fast. Pat Cummins asked questions, Nathan Lyon had England in a tangle while Mitchell Starc was again at his best in a show highlighted by a peach of a yorker that had Aussie cricketer Megan Schutt swooning on Twitter.
It can be safely said that Australia have officially cracked the code of starting well in the World Cup. Warner an Finch have decided they will not let the most threatening ball touch the bat or other parts of their body in the first 10 overs and play the patience game. Chris Woakes can vouch for that. A slightly fuller delivery moved away after pitching in the third over, almost squaring up Warner. Next over, Jofra Archer drew Finch into a drive before it shaped away just enough to make the Australia captain regret falling for that. Height of the delivery saved Finch after he reviewed a leg-before decision but the one that just cut through Warner to neither take an edge or the top of his middle or leg stump was pure luck.
Australia, bull headed as they are when it comes to not letting these breaks go to waste, dug in to engineer a marvel of an opening partnership. It would be foolish to analyse it from the numbers point of view. At almost six per over, it isn’t a glowing testament to the overdose of franchise-brand cricket forced down our gullets. But it speaks of match awareness, of the precondition that some part of the Australian batting order may not have what it takes to scare England at the home of cricket in a World Cup they need to win.
Like Usman Khawaja who almost wandered across to lose his stumps to a full delivery from Ben Stokes. Glen Maxwell, it seems, is too gifted to bat in periods that require him to be pedestrian and just farm the strike. Caught in two minds against the serious pace of Mark Wood, he gave Jos Buttler one of the simplest catches he has ever taken behind the stumps. Horrible running ended Marcus Stoinis’s stay so it was left to Alex Carey to shore up the innings like he had done against the West Indies.
It again brings the focus back on the collaboration between Warner and Finch. After Tuesday’s match, they now have scored 996 runs off 1050 deliveries. Steve Smith has 282 runs to his name while Khawaja has scored 210. No other Australian has crossed the 200-run mark in the World Cup. That explains Australia’s focus on starting well. Finch has scored five fifties now, two of them converted into centuries. Warner has five fifties as well, two of which were converted into centuries, against Bangladesh and Pakistan. Opening partnerships of 96 (Afghanistan), 15 (West Indies), 61 (India), 146 (Pakistan), 80 (Sri Lanka), 121 (Bangladesh) and now 123 against England point to a job well done as well as at the other teams’ failure to find a chink in their defence. England had to match up to those standards to prevent getting derailed.
It’s bad enough James Vince had to come into this match with expectations to be more than adequate to fill in for Jason Roy who was out with a torn hamstring. But to go for a drive without moving his feet in seaming conditions was asking for trouble. What hurt England most was Joe Root’s dismissal, trapped plumb to a vicious and fast inswinging delivery from Mitchell Starc.
Eoin Morgan’s departure in the sixth over after failing to stay on top a pull cast serious doubts on England’s ability to compete against Australia. It again fell on Ben Stokes to put up the fight England lacked at the top. But Australia were almost impeccable in their bowling, sticking to those stifling lines just outside the off-stump. For 11 deliveries, Stokes couldn’t take a run till he finally charged out to Jason Behrendorff and drove him for a boundary. Not for another 33 deliveries could Stokes hit another boundary.
Later, Maxwell was whacked for two sixes by Stokes but next to no support at the other end meant he didn’t have an option but to keep going. The only time Australia could have been on edge was when a partnership was brewing between Buttler and Stokes. But Khawaja pulled off a blinder near the deep square-leg boundary to send Buttler home.
Australia caught everything that came their way. And they bowled like every ball mattered. That Starc yorker which finally got rid of Stokes best exemplified the oh-so-familiar champion mentality of Australia. The defending champions are finally coming into their own, erasing memories of limp performances just a few months back when England were sweeping past every opposition to strengthen their No 1 position. It’s just another reminder of how rankings matter little when it comes to a tournament as big as the World Cup.