ICC CRICKET WORLD CUP, 2019
A hardworking innings from Steven Smith gave Australia a fighting total in the second semifinal © AFP
It was only the eighth over of the match, the last delivery of Jofra Archer’s over, when the ball rose sharply and pinged Alex Carey on his jaw. With blood coming out from his chin area, he immediately signalled for help. Australia, tottering at 19 for 3 already, could’ve further gone down in a period of play where England’s new ball pair of Archer and Chris Woakes had them in all sorts of trouble. All that Steve Smith needed then, and even later in the innings, was a partner to consolidate Australia’s innings. Carey, after a brief break and a bandaged jaw, was ready to do the job.
But before that, Australia had already found themselves in a situation much similar to where India were yesterday at Old Trafford, and where they themselves were in several world cup semifinals: precarious after an early collapse. The in-form opening pair of Aaron Finch and David Warner departed for single-digit scores, the former trapped legbefore and the latter edging a sharply rising delivery to first slip. Peter Handscomb’s debut world cup outing didn’t give him much chance to impress. A three-over struggled stay was followed by an incoming delivery that got the inside edge on to the stumps. In 6.1 overs, Australia were at 14 for 3 and England pacers with their tail up.
And then, Smith and Carey were out to build the innings. That the left-handed ‘keeper-batsman was promoted in the order was a result of the damage-control skills he had exhibited a few times earlier in the tournament, clearly outbeating Glenn Maxwell and Marcus Stonis – the two other contenders for the No. 5 slot – in that. And he was at it, again.
With a jaw in pain and the team in misery, he played calculated cricket. Without taking any undue risks, the duo kept rotating the strike and stabilised the innings with 103-run stand, occupying the crease for an hour and a half. The boundaries were few, but more importantly there were no maiden overs either. The runs came along at almost five an over when they were in the middle.
But just when Australia had got a platform to build strongly from, Carey, batting on 46, went after Adil Rashid but only to hole out to James Vince at deep mid wicket. And then again, Smith struggled to find a partner with whom he could take the innings deep.
Marcus Stonis was trapped legbefore for a duck, Glenn Maxwell chipped an Archer delivery to short cover for 22 and Pat Cummins was undone by a googly, edging it to Joe Root at slips to hand Adil Rashid his third wicket. After almost a 30-over consolidation, Smith found himself having to do the job all over again. In 37.4 overs, Australia were 166 for 7. This time, even the lone spinner was prancing around with his tail up.
But Australia’s tail had a reputation of putting a fight, and they had even outperformed the expectations in this world cup – against West Indies, against South Africa and even partly against New Zealand. This time, standing up to the task was Mitchell Starc. He swung his bat around, and even as his slogs weren’t as productive, he hung around for just more than 10 overs with Smith before the latter was run out, courtesy a fine throw by Jos Buttler. Starc, after a scratchy-but-effective 36-ball 29, top edged a short ball to the ‘keeper. Mark Wood cleaned up Jason Behrendorff for 1 to limit Australia to 223.
Brief scores: Australia 223 in 49 overs (Steven Smith 85, Alex Carey 46; Chris Woakes 3-20, Adil Rashid 3-54) vs England.