posted on 2019-06-07 23:24:36
posted by Manya Pilani
The usually high-scoring Trent Bridge offered a different tale for the Australian team when they took on West Indies in their 2nd match of World Cup ‘19. The five-time champions were quickly reduced to 79/5 on what is supposed to be a batsman’s paradise. But a well-known savior stood to protect its own.
West Indies captain Jason Holder won the toss and put Australia in to bat on a good track. Both teams had already promised a barrage of short balls to each other before coming into the game but Australia didn’t look as if they were prepared for the test.
The West Indies pace quintet of Oshane Thomas, Sheldon Cottrell, Andre Russell, Carlos Brathwaite, and Jason Holder turned back the clock for West Indies with short and fiery bowling, what was a trademark of the Carribean team that reigned the 80s. They made the ball talk and the noise was so deafening that it shook the Australian dressing room as the defending champions succumbed to 38/4 in the first 8 overs.
If Australia were to have a chance in the game, it was Steve Smith who was still at the crease. The chin music, however, didn’t stop from West Indies as they kept on perpetrating the same plan which had worked immaculately against Pakistan in their first match. Thomas and Cottrell continued shooting with fireballs, some erratic and some accurate, but all of them seeding uncertainty in the minds of the Aussie batsmen.
It took the composure and assurance of Smith to recover the Australian innings. While the West Indies had turned back time with the ball, Steve Smith had done the same with his willow. The old fashioned dig in kind of batting had come to the fore where Smith’s primary motive wasn’t scoring but surviving. He kept ducking under balls, swaying away from ripping deliveries or nudging them from the back foot.
According to CricViz, Steve Smith’s average contact point with the ball was just 1.5m from the stumps, which was the least of the Aussie Top 4, which explains why the right-hander was never hurried off by pace like his teammates and always had that extra time to judge the length of the deliveries. In his innings, Smith left and defended a number of balls and only attacked the ones that were either too full or too wide. It was a slow knock but one that was needed. The Australian talisman scored 14 runs off his first 20 balls and only 9 runs from balls 21-40. But Smith never looked flustered except when he top-edged a short delivery from Jason Holder to deep fine leg where Cottrell lost sight of the ball and ended up giving Smith a life when he was on 26 (48).
Amidst the chaos stood Steve Smith and with him, the Australian innings started finding its feet. The former Australian captain personified the never-say-die attitude that is so closely associated with Australian cricket as the Men in Yellow recuperated from the score of 79/5.
The anchor provided by Smith allowed the other batsmen to bat around him and escalate the total on the board. Alex Carey struck an important 44 (55) batting with Smith at the other end. But it was Nathan Coulter-Nile who stood out, blasting 92 runs off 60 balls at a strike-rate of 153. In the end, it needed a superhuman effort from Sheldon Cottrell at the boundary line to finally end Steve Smith’s resilience. Smith walked back for a score of 73 (103) at a very modest strike-rate of 70.87.
It isn’t a knock that necessarily flashes out from the scorecard but it is as salient as any.
Australia put up a competitive 288 all out which at one point, looked like a fairytale score for the Aussies. In the end, these proved to be 15 runs too much for West Indies and Australia notched up two wins in two games to launch their World Cup 2019 campaign.
This inning is a testimony to the fact that Smith might have been forced to leave cricket for 12 months but the old gritty batsman inside him has gone nowhere. If not, the mix of boos (in the aftermath of the Sandpaper Saga) and the applause he received from the Nottingham crowd while walking back to the pavilion will only strengthen Steve Smith’s resolve to bag Australia another World Cup title.