Cricket is an amazing game. After one Test it seemed certain that these Ashes would be the Summer of Steve. With just a few hours of the second Test remaining, Jofra Archer was set to be anointed 2019’s Supreme Being.
Australia’s final match of the group stage was against South Africa who, to their credit, had stuck around in England for eight long days to play the match, despite having no chance of making the semi-finals. Tremendous never-say-‘bye attitude from the Proteas.
Here are the ratings for the World Cup match between Australia and South Africa.
Bad Mitchell Starc
There are two Mitchell Starcs. One is the bowler we’ve seen throughout this World Cup, destroying stumps with laser accuracy to feed his shameful addiction to lit zing bails. That Mitchell Starc has stormed to the top of the wicket-taking table for the second World Cup in a row.
The other Mitchell Starc – Bad Mitchell Starc – is a bowler we’ve all seen. He’s the one who Shane Warne dislikes so much. The one who struggles for rhythm, exhibits no body language and sprays the ball all over the place.
Which Mitchell Starc showed up for this match? Well, after South African captain Faf du Plessis won the toss and elected to bat, the first delivery flew down leg side and past Alex Carey for five wides. So you tell me.
Yep, Bad Mitchell Starc was back. And what a fascinating time for him to show up, at the back end of a World Cup tournament.
Starc’s first three overs went for 26 runs, as Quinton de Kock and Aiden Markram flew out of the blocks.
Fortunately for Australia, Starc’s later spells were less wayward and he would eventually finish with the figures of 2/59 from nine overs, with bad Mitchell Starc making no further appearances.
How did Aaron Finch exorcise bad Mitchell Starc from the proceedings? Perhaps it was as simple as convincing the left-arm quick that he was bowling at Shaun Marsh in the nets.
Or perhaps the dread name of bad Mitchell Starc had been invoked too early. Maybe it was more a case of regular old Mitchell Starc and the rest of the opening bowlers struggling to muster enthusiasm for this match. I mean, sure, technically Australia was putting an end to a South African World Cup campaign. But somehow it didn’t seem quite as enjoyable as on previous occasions.
Or, y’know, maybe it was good batting. We must consider all possibilities.
Either way, Finch tossed the ball to Lyon in just the sixth over, in a desperate and futile attempt to save the first phase of the match.
Lyon responded by dismissing both openers to have South Africa 2/114 in the eighteenth over. Could the GOAT go on to take One Day International cricket’s first-ever ten-wicket haul?
No. But he did finish his ten over spell with a hundred percent of the wickets taken to that stage. So that’s the next best thing, surely.
Faf du Plessis and Rassie van der Dussen
Lyon’s bowling spell meant that Markram did not get to bat with his captain and fellow palindromic batsman Faf. Disappointment for fans of mirrored names everywhere.
Sensing the crowd displeasure, Faf instead joined forces with Rassie van der Dussen, whose name looks a teensy bit palindromic, if you squint very, very hard. The pair then put on 151 runs together, a palindromic number of runs, while Pup watched on in commentary. Not perfect, but it would have to do.
The pair consolidated the innings, then accelerated at the death as South Africa reached 6/325. Both batsmen made centuries. Or, at least, they would have, had Glenn Maxwell not cruelly intercepted van der Dussen’s attempt at a six from the very last ball of the innings.
As always, excellent work from Maxwell to realise cricket’s obsession with centuries is a meaningless byproduct of a base ten counting system, and therefore not acknowledge them as milestones worth recognising.
Australia’s run chase was fraught with peril. Aaron Finch tried to run David Warner out in the first over. Then Warner tried to run Steve Smith out in the sixth over. Marcus Stoinis eventually put an end to the nonsense by running himself out in the nineteenth over.
Intermingled between those run out opportunities, Usman Khawaja managed to damage a hamstring and retire hurt, before returning at the death of the innings to casually step across and paddle a ball into his stumps.
And then, of course, there was Maxwell. Ever the innovator, Maxwell realised that if he could just hit the helmet behind Quinton de Kock, he’d earn Australia five penalty runs. Alas, his carefully placed top edge of Kagiso Rabada was intercepted by the South African wicketkeeper. A poor reward for such daring invention.
Despite Warner bringing up a century and Alex Carey holding the back end of the innings together with a typically energetic 85, Australia fell ten runs short of the South African total.
As a result, they lost an opportunity to finish first after the group stages. Which means that instead of playing a faltering New Zealand in the semi-final, they will instead have to confront the much tougher challenge of a rejuvenated England.
Still, this is what happens when you don’t show the proper respect for palindromes and, as a result, lose ‘top spot’.