Australia confirmed that they are serious contenders for the 2019 ICC World Cup with a 15-run win over West Indies at Trent Bridge.
The defending champions looked down and out at one point but a sensational batting display from Nathan Coulter-Nile and Mitchell Starc’s five-wicket haul with the ball ensured a 10th ODI win in a row for Aaron Finch’s men.
Chasing a daunting target of 289 for victory, Windies lost openers Chris Gayle and Evin Lewis early but recovered through a superb half-century from wicketkeeper Shai Hope.
Hope forged valuable partnerships with Nicholas Pooran and Shimron Hetmyer before his 68-run knock was ended by Pat Cummins.
The Caribbean side still kept themselves in the game after Hope’s dismissal with a battling half-century from skipper Jason Holder but Starc came back with venom at the death to derail the chase for good.
The pacer first sent back Andre Russell before dismissing Holder and Carlos Brathwaite in quick succession in the 46th over to win the game for Australia in the dying overs.
Earlier, Australia were rocked early with the bat after Windies skipper Jason Holder won the toss and elected to field first. The Aussies found themselves reeling at 38-4 in no time with the new-ball duo of Sheldon Cottrell and Oshane Thomas giving Windies a roaring start.
David Warner cut a Cottrell delivery straight to backward point while Aaron Finch was undone by a peach of an outswinger from Thomas. Meanwhile, Usman Khawaja and Glenn Maxwell perished under a barrage of bouncers from the pacers before Marcus Stoinis smashed a Jason Holder delivery straight into the hands of Nicholas Pooran.
Steve Smith, however, held his own at one end and continued to grow in confidence through a valuable 68-run stand for the sixth wicket with Alex Carey before registering a fine half-century.
While Smith was steady in his approach with a 103-ball 73, it was Nathan Coulter-Nile who changed the complexion of the game with a counter-attacking innings of 92 from No8. The Aussie pacer smashed four sixes and eight boundaries in an entertaining 60-ball stay at the crease that took the team’s total to a challenging 288.
Starc means business
The Aussie pacer had finished as the joint-highest wicket-taker in his side’s triumph in the 2015 World Cup with 22 dismissals in eight outings. He looks on course to repeat that feat after a match-winning fifer against the Windies.
The express pacer was menacing from the get go and had Chris Gayle in trouble several times with the new-ball before ultimately trapping the Windies veteran lbw.
He then returned at the death to break West Indies charge just when they were dreaming of victory. The southpaw sent back the marauding Andre Russell at a crucial juncture before landing a big double blow. Starc dismissed half-centurion Jason Holder and the dangerous Carlos Brathwaite in the same over to put Australia firmly on top before cleaning up the tail to complete his second World Cup five-wicket haul.
It was the sixth ODI fifer for the Aussie pacer and it showed that he means business in the World Cup after being sidelined with injury for a prolonged period.
That Australia got to a score of 288 was almost single-handedly down to Nathan Coulter-Nile who put in his best ever ODI batting display. The 31-year-old has always been considered an all-rounder but had yet to put in a big batting display to justify that tag. That all changed on Thursday with the right-hander playing a counter-attacking innings of the highest calibre.
He walked in to bat with Australia reeling at 147-6 around the 30-over mark and by the time he was dismissed in the 49th over, the total had reached 284.
It was pure carnage at times from Coulter-Nile who registered his maiden ODI fifty and was looking good for a brilliant ton before being caught in the deep. His innings of 92 fell just four runs short of the record ODI score by a batsman batting at number eight.
Starc becomes fastest to 150 wickets
With the wickets of Holder and Brathwaite, Starc brought up 150 dismissals in ODI cricket and in doing so, broke the record held by Pakistan’s Saqlain Mushtaq. By reaching the milestone in just 77 matches, the Aussie pacer has become the quickest to achieve the feat in ODI history.
Mushtaq’s 150 dismissals for Pakistan had come in 78 matches.
🖐 Mitchell Starc took his sixth ODI five-wicket haul, becoming the fastest player to 150 scalps.— ICC (@ICC) June 6, 2019
More importantly for Australia, he helped steer the defending champs to a perfect #CWC19 start! #CmonAussie pic.twitter.com/fDmnH2x7t4
The 39-year-old put up a brisk 21 runs in a knock that was extremely eventful for a variety of reasons including his feat of reaching a thousand World Cup runs.
Gayle was nearly caught out on two occasions while his short innings featured three reviews, winning two of them and retaining all three.
There were also a few classic strikes to marvel at while his knock was brought to an end rather controversially.
NEARLY CAUGHT TWICE
In the third over, Gayle attempted to cut a short and wide delivery from Mitchell Starc and his shot just about evades Marcus Stoinis who was still able to intercept it and prevent any runs.
Two balls later, a short of a length ball takes off and catches the Windies batsman by surprise. He hangs out his bat and the ball catches an edge but goes over the keeper for four.
The very next ball after he edged for four, the Aussies appeal for a caught behind and the umpire’s finger goes up. There was a definite noise but Gayle reviews the call immediately. He seemed confident of his decision and rightly so. Replays showed that the ball actually grazed off-stump on its way to Alex Carey.
Then, with the final ball of an insane over from Starc, Gayle was rapped on the pads and again the umpire adjudged him to be out. The batsman once more showed no hesitation asking for a review which revealed that the ball was straying down leg.
In Starc’s next over though, he finally got the prized scalp he was after. He caught him lbw and Gayle wasn’t certain this time, consulting with the non-striker before going upstairs for a third time. It was close and Windies retained their review but the umpire’s call stood and the dangerous hitter was sent back to the pavilion.
Chris Gayle's innings today:— ICC (@ICC) June 6, 2019
4️⃣ blasted boundaries
3️⃣ times given out
1️⃣ ball hits the stumps but the bails stay on
1️⃣0️⃣0️⃣0️⃣ @cricketworldcup runs completed
All in 17 deliveries work for the Universe Boss! pic.twitter.com/dOLOONa4GL
BIG SHOTS AND MILESTONE
After an over of two reviews and close-calls for Gayle, he went after by striking three fours and picking up a double in his four deliveries he faced.
In the process, Gayle also managed to surpass one thousand World Cup runs and is the only active batsman to have reached the milestone.
There was nothing wrong with the ball that ultimately saw Starc dismiss Gayle but nonetheless it was a delivery that shouldn’t have counted.
It was later revealed that the ball before the dismissal was an illegal one with Starc massively overstepping his mark. As such, it should’ve been deemed a no-ball with the delivery that Gayle fell victim to becoming a free-hit.
The Cricket World Cup 2019 has so far lived up to its promise of delivering some special moments on the field. But as it often happens when one team ultimately lifts the trophy, the whole tournament can feel like a bit of a blur.
In an effort to really appreciate these moments whether for their spectacular nature or their meaningfulness, we’ve decided to look at them individually as the competition progresses and package our favourites into one series at the end.
These moments can be anything from a remarkable piece of play or wild celebration to a last-gasp victory or funny occurrence. Really, anything that stands out during this World Cup.
So without further adieu, here’s our latest edition of the series – Sheldon Cottrell’s stunning catch at the boundary to dismiss Australia’s Steve Smith.
Australia stalwart Steve Smith and the rest of the spectators at Trent Bridge were left stunned as Cottrell pulled off a blinder of a running catch on the boundary ropes during Thursday’s 2019 ICC World Cup clash.
Smith was batting on 73 at the time when he flicked an Oshane Thomas delivery over backward square-leg in characteristic style. The right-handed batsman connected well and the ball seemed destined to go for a six before Cottrell got there at full pace.
The Windies pacer grabbed the ball cleanly with his left-arm but his momentum was set to take him beyond the boundary ropes. Showing excellent awareness and reflexes, Cottrell tossed the ball into the air before crossing the ropes and then calmly returned to the field in time to complete a brilliant catch.
WHY IT WAS SPECIAL
Pace bowlers are not the most athletic of fielders but Cottrell defied that stereotype with a catch that will make the highlight reels for some time to come.
The left-armed bowler had just bowled the previous over before being deployed to the boundary ropes and could be forgiven for wanting a slight breather. However, he was completely switched on when the moment arrived and displayed excellent awareness, flexibility and athleticism to end the innings of a well-set Smith.
Smith was threatening to step on the gas in the death overs and Cottrell’s catch came at just the right time for Windies in that regard.
England’s Ben Stokes had already set the standard in the tournament opener against South Africa with a stunning one-handed grab on the boundary ropes and Cottrell has now more than matched it with his effort at Trent Bridge.