Mitchell Starc believes Australia have already created the blueprint of how to beat England at this World Cup and has highlighted taking early wickets as the key to their mouth-watering semi-final.
The old rivals met at Lord’s during the group stage of the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2019, where Australia set a target of 285/7 and then skittled England for 221 to complete a dominant 64-run win.
In that encounter, James Vince was removed second ball and the hosts were reduced to 53/4 in their chase, which is the sort of start that Starc is targeting when the sides meet again at Edgbaston this Thursday, with a place in the final on the line.
“The blueprint, if you like, from last time we played England was to get early wickets,” explained the left-arm seamer, who took 4-43 in that game.
“They’ll get Jason Roy back for the fixture, so we’ll have a few days now to discuss if we’ll change anything but the way we played England last time is a great blueprint.
“I think the game against India as well, where we didn’t take early wickets and they were able to build an innings before exploding towards the end, showed what we’ve looked to improve since then.”
Taking consistent early wickets was exactly what Australia were unable to do against South Africa at Old Trafford, as the Proteas top four scored 281 runs between them in a total of 325/6.
Valiant innings from David Warner (122) and Alex Carey (85) got Australia close but they ultimately lost by ten runs.
“This performance wasn’t our best – we got a couple of wickets but they had a partnership through the middle, whereas in the past few games we’ve been really good at taking wickets in that period,” added Starc.
“We were off it out there but we’re still in the World Cup semi-final which is no mean feat, especially given how a few people around the world were talking about this team three or four months ago.
“It’s something to be proud of but there’s a lot of work going forward to the semi-final and a lot to still take out of the South Africa game.”
Defeat against the Proteas saw Australia miss out on top spot in the table – which would have meant a semi-final against New Zealand in Manchester, rather than a clash with England.
But Starc isn’t worried about taking on the hosts, as they look to move a step closer to winning a sixth ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup.
“To win a World Cup you’ve got to beat everyone,” he explained. “Whether we play England in the semi-final or the final, or play India in the final or whatever, you’ve got to beat the good teams to win a World Cup.
“It’s a big game now in the semi-final and hopefully we can knock them off and advance to another final.”
“Well begun is half done.”
The impact the openers can have on a team’s success in a major tournament can’t be stressed enough. A strong start eases the pressure on the middle-order and ensures that the powerplay overs are utilised well.
It’s not surprising that the opening batsmen from three of the four teams that have made it to the semi-finals of the 2019 Cricket World Cup have performed a notch above the rest. New Zealand, however, have had to rely on captain and third man in, Kane Williamson, to get the job done.
We compare and contrast the openers based on their average, strike-rate and consistency.
The x-axis measures the batting average of the players while the y-axis scales their strike rate. The size of the bubble is proportional to the total runs scored by that player.
We can draw some major conclusions from the chart obtained by the data.
The defending champions have arguably the best opening pair in the tournament. David Warner and Aaron Finch have 1020 runs between them and have both led the leading run-getter’s chart at different times in the tournament.
Both the players have three fifties and two centuries in eight innings so far. The formidable pair has hence always formed a strong foundation for the Aussies to build a solid innings. However, the lower middle-order has often failed to end the game on the same tempo.
Warner boasts an average of 79.75 while Finch has a healthy 56.33. But the skipper has maintained a healthy strike-rate of 102.21, while the southpaw Warner has scored 638 runs at a cautious strike-rate of 89.48.
The Aussies are still strong contenders to defend the crown and the two players at the top of their batting line-up are the main reasons why they can threaten England at Edgbaston.
Hosts England are also top-heavy but enjoy a more stable middle-order. A largely dependable line-up marked by the likes of Eoin Morgan, Joe Root and Ben Stokes has allowed openers Jonny Bairstow and Jason Roy to play more freely and take more risks.
Given the liberty to go for the biggies, Roy (114.04) has registered the highest strike-rate among the opening batsmen from the top-four teams. Bairstow (97.26) has also achieved almost a run a ball so far and has completely let himself loose in the tail-end of the group stage games.
While Australia boast possibly the strongest opening pair, the Englishmen are up there as the most dangerous. Roy and Bairstow have maintained healthy strike-rates at a very good average of 68.2 and 51.33 respectively.
Both players have four 50+ scores – even though Roy missed three games with a hamstring injury – and have made it a habit to get there quickly. This pair can be extremely dangerous, especially if England bat first against Australia on Thursday.
Rohit Sharma has certainly been the best batsman of the World Cup. The 32-year-old has scored 647 runs in the tournament, smashing five centuries and one fifty in the process. The leading run-getter of the tournament now holds the record for the most centuries in a World Cup.
Rohit has achieved this at a commendable strike-rate of 97.77 and his average of 92.42 is a level above any other opener. He has taken his time to settle at times, but has looked unstoppable after gaining some momentum.
It appears that the withdrawal of the injured Shikhar Dhawan from the squad has not hurt India as much as people expected. KL Rahul has maintained a 50+ average to ensure that the southpaw is not missed. Although Rahul has failed to maintain a massive strike-rate, he has done a good job in providing Rohit the support he needs and allowed him the liberty to take initiative.
The Mangauru-born batsman clearly isn’t as destructive as Dhawan but with one century and two fifties, he has shown that he is here to leave a mark and not just as a spectator.
This opening pair contains a fair balance of safety and destruction and could just be the most dependable of the lot up against New Zealand’s dangerous pacemen.
Unlike their neighbours, the Kiwis have not had any luck at the top of the order. Martin Guptill – who had a sensational World Cup in 2015 – has amassed just 166 runs, which incidentally is Warner’s best score in an innings this season.
It does not help New Zealand that Guptill’s partner Colin Munro has fared no better. The 32-year-old scored 125 runs in six games before being replaced by Henry Nicholls, who has scored eight runs in two games.
Munro and Guptill have registered averages of 25 and 23.71 respectively. They’ve been consistent – just not in the way New Zealand would have wanted.
Guptill’s highest score – a 73* against Sri Lanka – accounts for about 44 per cent of his total score in this tournament. This means that the Auckland-born batter has averaged 13 runs in the remaining games.
The Kiwis have had to rely on Williamson – who is ticking along at an average of 96, despite recent woes – far too much in this World Cup and the inability of the openers to come clutch in crunch moments will most likely hurt them in their semi-final against India
Sri Lanka all-rounder Lahiru Thirimanne has urged experienced paceman Lasith Malinga not to hang up his bowling boots just yet.
Malinga, who is renowned for delivering the ball with a unique action, made his farewell ODI appearance on Saturday as Sri Lanka slipped to a seven-wicket defeat against India in the World Cup at Headingley.
The 35-year-old from Galle has enjoyed a glittering international career, bagging 101 wickets in 30 Tests together with 335 wickets in 225 ODI appearances, and Thirimanne is hoping the veteran still has some fuel left in his tank.
“Lasith is a unique player and a very big loss for us,” said Thirimanne at the ICC media zone. “I hope he will continue to play T20s. He will be a very big loss to us, though, when he comes to the end of his career.”
Sri Lanka ended a disappointing World Cup campaign by sliding to a fourth defeat, although they were the team most affected by bad weather with two of their nine matches producing no results.
“We haven’t performed well, that’s the main thing,” said Thirimanne after he struck 53 in a fifth-wicket partnership of 124 with centurion Angelo Mathews as Sri Lanka compiled 264/7 after winning the toss and electing to bat first.
“Overall our batting didn’t click. In some of the matches our bowlers didn’t bowl well, so in all three parts we weren’t up to the mark. We have to improve on those three dimensions.”
India eased to their target with 39 balls to spare thanks to 111 from KL Rahul and 103 by the remarkable Rohit Sharma.
Thirimanne said: “Rohit is in great touch. Five centuries in a World Cup is quite spectacular.
“The thing is, he is not hitting big shots first up, and then you see he’s scoring at a run a ball. That’s unique. I think he will score more runs in the semis as well.
“England and India have the best chance of winning the World Cup. I hope that India might win the World Cup.”