Australia’s ODI renaissance powered the team into the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup 2019 semi-finals, but just when the dream of a sixth World Cup title started looking more realistic, they stumbled against a ruthless England.
Their first loss in eight World Cup semi-finals ended Australia's hopes of clinching their sixth title. In hindsight, it was an impressive run for a team that had slipped to sixth in the MRF Tyres ICC Men's ODI rankings, and was still recovering from the aftershocks of six successive bilateral ODI series losses before the year began.
Australia picked up wins in seven of their first eight matches in the competition, but had their fair share of vulnerabilities and shortcomings. As coach Justin Langer had pointed out midway, the side, perhaps, wasn't operating at its optimum potential. Having re-assembled their line-up to accommodate David Warner and Steve Smith just ahead of the tournament, their rawness, as a unit, eventually came to the fore in crunch situations.
Positives to take home
The form of their star players. David Warner carried his IPL exploits into the tournament, mixing his usual free-flow with remarkable awareness at the top. He ended just one short of tournament-topper Rohit Sharma’s tally of 648 runs. Aaron Finch batted to prove a point, and perfectly complemented Warner, compiling over 500 runs.
Steve Smith wasn’t a compelling force, but put his head down during testing phases, and came up with gritty knocks. Mitchell Starc, with the ball, was unrelenting, making a potent opening combination first with Pat Cummins, and then Jason Behrendorff, and finishing at the top of the wickets tally.
Areas to improve
A wobbly middle-order struggled to take the onus at times. Regular chopping and changing meant that batting roles kept switching hands as the tournament progressed. Injuries in the latter stages hurt them further.
The over-dependence on the Warner-Finch-Smith trio was evident in their middle-order collapses. Glenn Maxwell’s rapid starts did not translate into bigger scores, and more would have been expected from Marcus Stoinis, who endured middling returns with the bat.
While Australia’s new-ball pacers shone throughout the campaign, their spinners were relatively subdued as a supporting hand; their 123 overs of spin yielded 764 runs, and just 10 wickets.
Having played just 19 ODIs going into the tournament, there were doubts over Alex Carey’s credentials, especially as a lone wicket-keeper with no back-up. By the time he was done, Carey had ticked all the boxes, ending with Australia’s second-best batting average - 62.50 - in the tournament.
Despite it being his debut World Cup, Carey looked unfazed, ably sharing the middle-order burden with Steve Smith. Reliable behind the stumps, Carey just fell short of Gilchrist’s all-time tally , recording 20 dismissals in ten games.
01 June: v Afghanistan, Bristol County Ground, Bristol - Australia won by seven wickets
06 June: v West Indies, Trent Bridge, Nottingham - Australia won by 15 runs
09 June: v India, The Oval, London - India won by 36 runs
12 June: v Pakistan, County Ground, Taunton - Australia won by 41 runs
15 June: v Sri Lanka, The Oval, London - Australia won by 87 runs
20 June: v Bangladesh, Trent Bridge, Nottingham - Australia won by 48 runs
25 June: v England, Lord’s, London - Australia won by 64 runs
29 June: v New Zealand, Lord’s, London - Australia won by 86 runs
06 July: v South Africa, Old Trafford, Manchester - South Africa won by 10 runs
11 July: v England, Edgbaston, Birmingham - England won by 8 wickets