Paceman Nathan Coulter-Nile’s incredible 92 and a five-wicket haul from Mitchell Starc guided Australia to a thrilling 15-run ICC World Cup win over West Indies in Nottingham on Friday morning (AEST).
Aggressive and hostile West Indies bowling saw Australia reeling at 4-38 and 5-79 before Steve Smith (73) and Alex Carey (45) steadied the ship.
Coulter-Nile – who entered the game with a highest international score of 34 – then smashed 92 from 60 deliveries, hitting eight fours and four sixes in a stunning display of batting from the No.8.
The 31-year-old’s efforts helped Australia to a competitive total of 288 all out, a score that looked like being 20 runs light when West Indies was 5-216 in the 38th over.
But Starc removed big-hitter Andre Russell and then added the scalps of Carlos Brathwaite (16) and West Indies captain Jason Holder (51) in the 46th over.
The spearhead finished with figures of 5-46 as West Indies ended up falling short on 9-273.
“We just kept hanging in there,” Australia captain Aaron Finch said afterwards.
“Alex Carey and Steve Smith (did a great job) to get us a little bit deeper and Nathan Coulter-Nile … to play the way he did was exceptional.
“Even with the ball, we hung in there and hung in there. Really proud of the boys today.”
The win leaves Australia second in the World Cup standings with two wins from as many matches, ahead of a much-anticipated clash against India at The Oval on Sunday.
The run chase was not without controversy, with Holder and West Indies blaster Chris Gayle both given out twice, only for reviews to see them remain at the crease.
And even when Gayle was eventually out, LBW to Starc for 21, the wicket should never have stood, television replays showing the left-armer significantly overstepped on the ball prior.
That meant that the ball that dismissed Gayle should have been a free hit, given after a front-foot no ball, but the umpires missed it.
The steady stream of incorrect decisions and reviews led former West Indies bowler Michael Holding to slam the umpiring as “atrocious”.
The match was also notable for the incredible piece of fielding that dismissed Smith, Sheldon Cottrell putting in his own claim for catch of the tournament with a stunning boundary line grab.
Pat Cummins (2-41) struck first for Australia, having Evin Lewis caught at slip just moments before both of Gayle’s successful reviews, which came in the third over.
One of the reviews came after umpire Chris Gaffaney thought the noise of the ball brushing the stump, but not dislodging a bail, was an edge.
Gayle ominously hammered three fours off the next over, delivered by Cummins, but was soon back in the pavilion.
Young guns Shai Hope (68) and Nicolas Pooran (40) steadied things but just when West Indies looked in control, a wicket would fall, a common theme of the chase.
A messy run out saw Shimron Hetmyer dismissed for 21 and Russell came and went quickly but it was Holder that was the key scalp, one provided by Starc, who then bowled Cottrell to snag his five-for.
Earlier, Australia looked all at sea against the pace and bounce of Oshane Thomas (2-63), Cottrell (2-56) and Russell (2-41).
In a throwback going back many decades, the West Indies quicks were inflicting blows on the body – Khawaja got hit twice, once in the helmet – and on the mind, as Finch fell caught behind for six, Warner was caught at backward point for three and Khawaja edged to the wicket-keeper for 13.
When Glenn Maxwell skied a pull shot and was out for a second-ball duck, Australia was on rocky ground, and Marcus Stoinis added just 19.
But from 5-79, Smith and Carey got to work, the former continuing to turn the strike over as he settled in as ‘the anchor’, allowing Carey and Coulter-Nile to play their shots and take Australia beyond 200.
A hundred loomed large for Smith until a flick to fine leg, which seemed set for six, was plucked out of mid-air by a sprinting Cottrell with just one hand.
The paceman then tossed the ball in the air, allowed his momentum to take himself over the boundary line and then re-entered the field of play to safely complete the catch.
It was a tremendous piece of skill, made even more surprising by the meal Cottrell made of a far easier chance to catch Smith when he was on just 26.
Coulter-Nile, who brought up his half-century off just 41 balls, kept swinging and finished with the record score for a No.8 batsman at a World Cup, one that was just four runs short of the benchmark for a batsman in that position in any one-day international match.
And while he missed out on a century, holing out to Holder at wide long-off in the penultimate over, the damage was done. Australia had a total to defend.