It has been some campaign so far for Australia in the 2019 ICC World Cup with Aaron Finch and his men setting up a blockbuster semi-final clash against hosts England at Edgbaston on Thursday.
The defending champions had been in a rut in the ODI format throughout 2018, but they have turned things around in style with the returns of their star performers David Warner and Steve Smith.
Defeats to India and South Africa have been the only blots in Australia’s stellar campaign which has included impressive wins over England, New Zealand, West Indies and Pakistan.
The five-time champions started their campaign in indifferent fashion but have been getting better with each passing game. A record sixth title is now looking like a real possibility for the Aussies who have won all seven of their previous semi-final meetings in the World Cup.
WHAT IS WORKING FOR THEM
Openers in prime form
Having one of the most balanced squads in the tournament has been one of Australia’s biggest strengths with the side firing on all fronts.
Openers Finch and Warner have already registered more than 1,100 runs between them and have laid the foundation for many strong starts. The duo’s contributions at the top have been complemented nicely by an able support cast comprising Alex Carey in the middle-order as well as Usman Khawaja, though he has now been ruled out of the remainder of the tournament.
Starc back to his best
The formidable batting displays have been backed up by a fearsome bowling unit spearheaded by Mitchell Starc. The Aussie pacer is leading the wicket-taking charts by some distance with 24 scalps to his name in just eight outings.
Starc’s partnership with Pat Cummins has been a solid one with the younger pacer himself chipping in with 12 wickets while Jason Behrendorff’s left-arm seam has emerged as another potent threat in the more recent outings.
Leading wicket-takers in #CWC19 robin-round:— Cricket World Cup (@cricketworldcup) July 7, 2019
Mitchell Starc ▶️ 26
Mustafizur Rahman ▶️ 20
Jasprit Bumrah ▶️ 17
Jofra Archer ▶️ 17
Mohammad Amir ▶️ 17
Which bowler has impressed you the most? pic.twitter.com/DtkSU1wKxP
Finch’s men have also displayed tremendous resilience to bail themselves out of some tricky situations. They lost five early wickets to the Windies but still managed to recover and ultimately post a match-winning total of 288. They struggled at times against Pakistan and New Zealand before eventually bouncing back to win both games.
They seemed down and out in a chase of 326 against the Proteas at 119-4 but still nearly got over the finish line following the heroics of Warner and Carey.
WHERE ARE THEY STILL SUSCEPTIBLE
Lack of spin threat
While the batting and pace departments are looking good for Australia, the same cannot be said about their spin unit. Adam Zampa was preferred as the specialist spinner in the early stages of the tournament but some expensive displays by the leggie have seen him drop out of the playing XI.
Instead, it has been Test stalwart Nathan Lyon who has been operating in the spinner’s slot in the more recent outings but he has been more of an economical bowler than a wicket-taking threat.
They have also been hit by injuries lately with Khawaja being ruled out of the tournament while Marcus Stoinis is facing a race to be fit in time for the semi-final. Khawaja has been a solid performer and his place will now have to be filled by either Peter Handscomb or Matthew Wade.
Edgbaston horror record
The defending champions have not won an international match at Edgbaston since 2001 when they beat England in the Ashes. In fact, their last ODI victory at the ground came all the way back in 1993.
They are winless in their last 14 matches across all formats at Edgbaston while the hosts have been in imperious form at the venue of late.
There have been several key performers for Australia but Starc has been head and shoulders above the rest with what has been a terrific individual campaign.
The left-armed pacer has not played much bilateral ODI cricket over the past two years but he definitely knows how to turn it on at the World Cup stage.
After finishing as the top wicket-taker in the 2015 edition, Starc is well on course to perform an encore in England with 24 scalps and counting already. His yorkers have been on point and the one to clean-bowl Ben Stokes with has arguably been the delivery of the tournament to date.
No other bowler in history has picked up as many World Cup five-wicket hauls as Starc (three) and he is bound to play a key role in the semi-finals.
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