Even by Smith’s standards, this was spectacularly wacky!
In the history of the ICC Cricket World Cup, Australia have won the title five times. Fortunes have smiled on the Australians in this tournament format.
On top of Australia’s five World Cups since 1987, the men in gold have only had one disastrous tournament in 1992, when they failed to qualify for the semi-finals co-hosting with New Zealand.
In 1996, Australia managed to reach the final and lost to Sri Lanka. Then in 2011, despite Ricky Ponting’s century, Australia lost to hosts India in the quarter-finals.
In this tournament so far, Australia are still winning games despite showing some batting vulnerabilities as well as a lack of quality bowlers apart from Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins.
Following the victory over Bangladesh, Australia are virtually assured of a place in the semi-finals. The other teams that are a mathematical possibility would need to win all their remaining matches, which is highly unlikely.
I am optimistic and prefer to see the cup half-full for Australia. The tricky part of this tournament format is that once it is in the knock-out stage – i.e. the semi-finals – the tournament resets itself, and any team is able to turn up and deliver at the business end.
India showing good form in the round robin may amount to nothing if they fail to bring their A-game in the semi-finals, only to lose and go home. Similarly, England may face more pressure to deliver in the knock-out games because there is no tomorrow if the hosts has an off day.
If the Australians want to succeed in the semis, Mitchell Marsh needs to replace Marcus Stoinis, and although it’s pointless to lament the non-selection of players like Ashton Turner, Peter Handscomb and Josh Hazelwood, the selectors need to concentrate on making the most of the 15 men they have at their disposal. Australia can bring home the Cup, even carrying underdog status.
On the bowling front, perhaps Nathan Lyon will be the trump card for Australia in the knock-out game, or perhaps it is Stoinis’ turn to bring on something similar to the 146 he famously made in New Zealand.
With no apparent Plan B or flexibility in this World Cup squad, a semi-final finish is par for Australia. And so long as Australia are able to focus during the knock-out stage, they can give their opponents a shake-up.
Both Steve Smith and David Warner have justified their spots in the squad. Nathan Coulter-Nile is the player that provides the batting depth and Adam Zampa will be the person to take the middle over wickets come the knock-out round.
Australia can play without any pressure facing its final three matches against England, New Zealand and South Africa.
Do some experimenting and give some game time to Nathan Lyon so that the final line-up is locked in for the tournament knock-out rounds.
Who knows, these three games might allow somebody to show up and be the X-factor in the semis.