Shane Warne, one of Australia’s greatest World Cuppers, had urged their floundering Ashes team of 2005 to bounce back with the epic quote: “Find a way to get back in to the game, find a way to build a partnership, find a way to get bowling partnerships, find a way to catch a ball, find a way to stop it.”
Australia’s five World Cup campaigns in the past have mostly been about ‘finding a way out’ of trouble. And this World Cup offered a fair few samples of how the Batch of 2023 have gone about doing it, with Adam Zampa, Pat Cummins and that other gent, Glenn Maxwell showing how it’s done.
Low total defense vs India
The fightback crystallised early when defending a small total of 199 against India in their opener at Chennai. Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood had the hosts in massive trouble at an eye-popping 2/3 as they sent back Ishan Kishan, Rohit Sharma and Shreyas Iyer, perhaps the last time the Indian batting order ever looked flaky.
Kohli and Rahul would course correct almost instantaneously displaying how crumble-proof their future campaign would be. The Aussie pacers haven’t quite gone on to set the stage on fire thereafter, but they have their plans in place when defending small totals. If Marsh had taken the sitter offered by Kohli, chances are Aussies might not have even lost that day. But even in that defeat, but for those brief moments early in India’s chase, you saw the World Cup version of Australia threatening to make it a contest.
The ZamPat tango vs Sri Lanka
Still to register a win after two losses to India and South Africa, Australia found themselves staring at Sri Lanka’s 124/0 dawdling into the middle-overs at the Ekana. Here was the first time that first-change Pat Cummins and Adam Zampa combined as enforcer and chiselling engraver, pulling the Lankans back to 199/8 by the end of the second powerplay.
Cummins put in a lot of shoulder and back torque into Nissanka’s first wicket, where David Warner poured equal effort into the dive to make a tough catch look routine at deep square leg even as the Aussies were melting on the field, and bracing for another 300+ total. Warner then ran from deep square leg to deep mid-wicket and clung on to a stunning tumbling catch off a skier as the dangerous Kusal Mendis top-edged Adam Zampa.
The octopus leggie then claimed three more leg-befores with pinpoint lengths; a leg-break that skidded straight and two googlies as the Lankans were constricted to 209 in 43.3 overs. Marsh and Inglis kept things steady with half centuries, for a comfortable 5 wicket win, to kickstart the comeback that has led to 7-straight wins.
Captain’s KO-punch vs New Zealand
Australia’s 388 was looking chaseable amidst Dharamshala’s dreamy vistas, as New Zealand neared 300 with two capable batters in Rachin Ravindra and Mitchell Santner. It’s when Pat Cummins sent in a slower, fuller delivery making Rachin (116 off 89) lunge out and play an imbalanced loft. Labuachagne was seamless in catching it at the boundary as the captain sent the danger man back at 293/6.
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Change of pace would again work out for Cummins against Matt Henry who got no pace to work with to go past backward point at 346/8. Still, Jimmy Neesham was left, and he could hurt the Aussies like he did England last World Cup. But Cummins would continue to bowl cramping lengths, denying him the big shots everytime he tried to hasten towards victory. His last four overs (all post 40) went for a total of 24 runs in a high-scoring game. In a match that went to the last over, Neesham’s full-dive was in vain as NZ finished five short at 383/9.
The Ashes rashes vs England
At 247/8 and batting first, the Australians were heading for a below par score against England, giving their arch rivals cruel hope of staying afloat. But Adam Zampa, who by his own admission, never batted at the nets even once during this World Cup, fetched up and smashed around to get the Aussies to a decent total. He smacked 29 off 19 with four boundaries at No 10 as they wound up at 286. Then with the ball too, in a chase England should have sewn up, the Aussies just kept pinging them with regular wickets. In an evil peek into hope, the English were allowed to limp to three partnerships – 84 runs for third wicket, 63 runs for fifth and 37 runs for ninth, but Adam Zampa had the A to Z on them with figures of 21/3 off 10 overs. He conceded 21 runs in singles that day.
GIOAT innings vs Afghanistan
Afghanistan boast of the World Cup’s best spin quartet, but the hyper-chatty Naveen ul-Haq and seriously talented Azmatullah Omarzai had Australia properly cooked at 91/7 in pursuit of 292. Steve Smith wasn’t playing due to vertigo, and Marnus Labuachagne was served up his own dose through a Rahmat Shah runout. Then the greatest, Glennest Innings Of All Time happened and blew the Afghans away. 201 off 128 with 21 fours, 10 sixes, myriad cramps and legless, mind-blowing swings of the bat ought to be repeated at every opportunity. It was the most Australian of fightback moments, and their World Cup history is littered with finishers. This was a finish to finish all finishes.