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
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