ICC World Cup 2019 – AUS v ENG: Finch combines forces with Behrendorff and Starc to breeze past England


JUNE 25, 2019

Brief Scorecard: Australia 285 for 7 (Finch 100, Warner 53, Woakes 2-46) beat England 221 (Stokes 89, Behrendorff 5-44, Starc 4-43) by 64 runs

LONDON, ENGLAND – Australia played Test match cricket in miniature to get the better of England and a set of conditions at Lord’s that were not really in the blueprint for Eoin Morgan’s side ahead of a tournament in which they now face the tightest of ropes to qualify for the semi-finals.

The cut and thrust of this Lord’s ODI was a world away from the virtual home run derby of Trent Bridge a year ago. That day, England tallied a gargantuan 481 and seemingly set the tone for the way this World Cup would be played. Yet, in the crucible of a global tournament played in the damp of an early summer beset by rain, Australia’s more deliberate plans, built on a stable, steady top order and a collective of pace and class with the ball have held up; the fireworks of Nottingham might as well have taken place on Mars.

Australia captain Aaron Finch deservedly claimed the match award for a century that represented not only leadership by example but also a personal triumph over technical troubles that had made him so susceptible to the ball seaming into him. It would have been hard to imagine conditions more conducive to such a risk than these, but Finch overcame them with help from David Warner to set up a platform that, if not fully exploited, was enough to take the Australians to the sort of score they have commonly defended in recent months.

They did so via a bowling attack chosen specifically for England. Jason Behrendorff had played only once before this game, and Nathan Lyon not at all, but they gelled beautifully with Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Marcus Stoinis to unbalance England at the start and then snuff out any subsequent rearguards before they assumed troubling proportions.

Behrendorff’s swing and guile, if revelatory to Lord’s observers, were no surprise to those who know his best days for Western Australia. Starc’s speed and swing up front, then his late swerving yorker afterwards, were exactly what Finch required. In all this and another sublime fielding display, the Australians continued their march to a peak of performance at the definitive end of this World Cup. A sixth title is now closer than many, perhaps, expected before the tournament.

Buckets of overnight rain drenched St John’s Wood and there was some question over the start time, but the weather cleared enough to allow for the scheduled toss, though not after Jofra Archer had required a fitness test to play. That interlude did not dissuade Morgan from bowling first on a green-tinged surface when calling correctly, although Finch admitted he had been somewhat more equivocal having called up Lyon and Behrendorff as replacements.

Memories of Australia’s twin collapses to the moving ball in Birmingham and Nottingham in the 2015 Ashes are still fresh, and Warner was a victim of both. But, alongside Finch, he was to carve out an opening stand that confounded the expectations of an overcast morning, aided by English imprecision when choosing their length of attack. Too often short of a length if not outright short, they also saw numerous Australian edges avoid going to hand or falling short, meaning 44 for no loss was the tally after ten nervy overs for both sides.

Acceleration followed, both Warner and Finch finding the boundary and the captain also clearing it twice, as English brows furrowed in the middle and in the stands. Warner looked as fluent as he has all tournament and it was a surprise when, having crafted a third century stand with Finch for the Cup, he was fooled by a Moeen Ali offbreak that held in the pitch and ballooned to Joe Root, running around from backward point.

Usman Khawaja was chosen to accompany Finch, and together they lifted the Australians to an imposing 173 for 1 after 32 overs – a platform from which a score of 350 was plausible on paper, if less likely in the prevailing conditions. Khawaja’s fall only succeeded in bringing Steven Smith to the middle with plenty of overs to spare, and when Finch went to his hundred via a Chris Woakes misfield at fine leg it appeared the Australians were well on top.

But Finch chose the wrong moment to try a hook, top edging straight to Woakes the very next ball and reproaching himself with all the fury of a captain who knew he had done exactly what he has asked teammates not to – squander an opportunity to turn a century into a monument. His anguish was to be intensified by the decline that followed, as Glenn Maxwell followed two memorable blows off Archer with a wafty edge behind off the rapid Mark Wood, Stoinis was run out over a disputed second run with Smith, and the former captain lost his timing and his wicket while trying to get runs around the corner.

It all added up to the loss of 6 for 86, and at 259 for 7 England may have been chasing as little as 270. However, some late salvaging by Alex Carey, including 11 from Ben Stokes’ final over of the innings and a boundary from the final ball, inched the total up to 285. A defendable total is all Australia’s bowlers have asked for this tournament, and there was a small but discernible nod from Ricky Ponting on the Lord’s balcony as Carey and Starc jogged off for the change of innings.

If some surprise greeted the sight of Behrendorff limbering up to deliver the first ball of the England reply, there was slack-jawed shock in the Members Pavilion when his second ball curled fiendishly late to knock back the middle stump of an overcommitted James Vince. Behrendorff mixed swing and angle with skill and experience of his methods to provide an ideal counterpoint to Starc, who at the other end accounted for Root and then Morgan in the manner of his 2015 World Cup pomp.

Root was pinned on the crease and in front of all three stumps by a ball that swung back just enough at pace, before Finch moved long leg finer and Starc delivered with a fast bouncer that Morgan could only sky off top edge and glove to Cummins, who made good ground to the catch. Having already retreated outside leg stump to try to drive Starc, Morgan’s brief innings will remain in the Australian memory bank.

An attempt at recovery by Jonny Bairstow, speckled with some attractive strokes, was ended when he hooked unwisely at Behrendorff and was also held by Cummins, this time on the midwicket fence. A better outfield catch was to follow when Jos Buttler, just getting himself going, swivel-pulled Stoinis towards square leg and Khawaja did not break stride in taking a catch he might have struggled to reach before admirable fitness and fielding work in the year since Justin Langer became head coach.

Even then, with Buttler out of the picture, Stokes harboured some hope of delivering England to victory, for he had shrugged off a calf ailment to climb to his highest score in a Lord’s ODI, and by helping England to 22 in two Cummins overs seemed set for a thrilling finish. This, however, was to reckon without Starc, called back by Finch for the late-innings clean-up job. He certainly did a job on Stokes, conjuring a 145kph yorker that screeched under the set allrounder’s bat to send the bails zinging and more or less end the match. Stokes, for his part, dropped his bat and kicked it away in exasperation.

The rest of the game passed as if according to script. Behrendorff was able to complete a five-for at Lord’s, finding a beauty to leave Moeen then aided by the most composed boundary-line double-act catch from Maxwell to Finch. Starc, fittingly, took the last wicket, leaving Australia atop the Cup table and safely into the semi-finals. England, having waited so long for this day, must now play some of the best cricket of their lives to make the finals, let alone win them.

Courtesy/Source: ESPNCricinfo