After a two-week break due to Brisbane rain and the essentially linear nature of time, Australia resumed their World Cup campaign against co-hosts New Zealand.
And without getting too carried away, it was a game that matched the excitement level of any of the associate games in the tournament so far. Here are the ratings for the Eden Park thriller.
The only thing that had been spoken about more than Australia’s infamous two-week break was Michael Clarke’s return as Australian acting full-time captain. Clarke showed he’d lost none of his captaincy nous, winning the toss as if he’d never been away.
He elected to bat, which was fine with Brendon McCullum, who revealed he had wanted to bowl anyway. (Side note: every time a captain loses a toss he should always say that he’d intended to do whatever it is he is being forced to do. That’s Mind Games 101.)
The only other thing that had been spoken about more than Australia’s two-week break were the short boundaries at Eden Park and how pretty much any total was possible on the ground. After the first over, Australia had plundered 15, setting an early benchmark total of 750, which most pundits agreed was ‘about par’.
In fact, such was the ease with which fours and sixes were being struck that Aaron Finch somehow scrambling a three had a strong claim to being the most remarkable feat of the day.
Well, batting feat, anyway. It got nowhere near any of the bowling feats.
Australia lost Finch with the score on 30, and Shane Watson and David Warner partnered to take the total to 1/80.
Australia then lost 8/26, which even the most one-eyed of their fans (and a big hello to the Channel Nine commentary box if they’re reading) would have to admit was less than ideal.
What had happened to cause this record collapse? Was it a cunning Australian plan to minimise the amount of time in which Clarke could injure his hamstring? Had they rope-a-doped McCullum’s captaincy, tricking him into almost bowling out his best three bowlers for a mere nine wickets, leaving the last pair of Brad Haddin and Pat Cummins to reap the rewards?
Or was it simply a case of Trent Boult and the rest of the New Zealand attack shamefully showing no respect for the spirit of Gallipoli as they crushed their hapless Anzac brothers?
Who can say? One thing was for sure, that 750 target was beginning to seem less and less likely. Despite Haddin and Cummins’ best efforts, Australia unluckily ended their innings a disappointing 599 runs short.
Brendon McCullum batted the only way he knows how. That is, with a cricket bat. He used that cricket bat to bludgeon 50 off a mere 21 deliveries. Ridiculously, that wasn’t his fastest ODI fifty. It wasn’t even his fastest World Cup fifty. Or his fastest fifty this week.
Why was he batting so slowly? Probably because Mitch Johnson had gone frighteningly close to breaking his arm. And without even a (swear) word of warning from Clarke. Thanks a lot, Jimmy Anderson.
There was a time when Mitchell Starc was number one on my personal ‘players who objectively do quite well but of whom I remain unconvinced’ rankings. In recent months, he has plummeted well down that list. (New leader: Aaron Finch.)
Starc was magnificent as Australia did their best to defend their stupidly small total. He took 6/28 off nine overs, almost singlehandedly dragging Australia to the brink of victory in a game where victory brinks should have been well outside of single-handed dragging range.
If there’s one thing Starc could work on though, it’s converting all the hat-tricks he finds himself on. He had two hat-trick chances in this match and blew both of them. Poor work.
Starc was well supported by Cummins, who not only took two wickets (including that of McCullum) but also a disputed catch, which gave the New Zealand crowd an Australian they could accuse of cheating, something that always makes them deliriously happy.
Net run rates
New Zealand got a large net run rate boost for winning this game. Because they won it in 23.1 overs and therefore obviously thrashed Australia.
This is kind of silly mid-1980s thinking, isn’t it? We’ve had Duckworth Lewis for decades now and, even if the mathematics of it is beyond most casual fans, the basic concept that wickets remaining are a resource that need to be considered along with overs remaining is pretty well established.
Net run rates in successful chases should be calculated by using Duckworth Lewis par scores that take into account not only the overs taken to win the game but also how many wickets the chasing team lost in doing so. It’s absurd that winning nine wickets down off 24 overs earns you a better net run rate than winning no wickets down off 25.
Sorry, no jokes in that bit. I was making an actual point. Won’t happen again.
But hey, at least we got that point against Bangladesh, right?