Another five-wicket haul from Mitchell Starc and a gritty fightback with the bat helped Australia to a convincing 86-run Cricket World Cup victory over New Zealand at Lord’s on Sunday morning (AEST).
Australia were 5-92 in the 22nd over at Lord’s but scrapped to 9-243 from 50 overs, Usman Khawaja (88) and Alex Carey (71) playing crucial roles in the repair job.
Trent Boult (4-51) claimed a hat-trick in the last over of Australia’s innings but New Zealand’s run chase never got going, the Black Caps bowled out for 157 in the 44th over.
Starc (5-26) was brilliant again with the ball, claiming the key wicket of New Zealand captain Kane Williamson (40) in a performance that took his tournament tally to 24 wickets.
The match was also notable for some tremendous catches, New Zealand’s Martin Guptill providing the best, a stunning one-handed pluck to see the back of Steve Smith for just five runs.
Smith took a superb catch of his own, too, as Australia, who had already qualified for the World Cup semi-finals, won its fifth game in a row ahead of a final pool match against South Africa on Saturday.
“Obviously not the start we wanted … it (pitch) did play on the slower side,” Carey said afterwards.
“For me, it was just to keep it simple and play to my strengths. Today was a nice day and credit to Usman Khawaja as well, who batted for a long time in that heat, and obviously Mitchell Starc to close out that innings with the ball.”
Boult’s milestone gave New Zealand momentum heading into its run chase and Guptill (20) and Henry Nicholls (8) saw off opening spells from both Jason Behrendorff (2-31) and Starc.
Finch brought Behrendorff back into the attack quickly, though, and the move paid dividends, the left-armer removing both openers, having Nicholls caught down the leg side before he trapped Guptill in front.
New Zealand’s best batsman, Williamson, was dropped twice as he and Ross Taylor (30) got to work.
But as he has done all tournament, Starc stepped up when required for his country, removing Williamson caught behind, and Taylor then threw his wicket away with a reckless shot off Pat Cummins (1-14).
Steve Smith (1-6) then came into the attack to remove Colin de Grandhomme for a golden duck, a wicket that was greeted with big celebrations, as New Zealand continued to collapse.
Smith also took a great catch to dismiss Tom Latham (14) and the wickets fell steadily from there, Starc proving as adept as ever at cleaning up the tail.
Earlier, Aaron Finch (8) and David Warner (16) never looked comfortable in what was a short-lived partnership.
Finch was dropped in the second over, Guptill spilling a tough chance at short cover, but the captain could not make New Zealand pay, trapped lbw by Boult shortly after.
Guptill dropped another catch just two balls after Finch’s dismissal, unable to take a regulation chance at second slip that would have seen Khawaja depart for a duck.
And although Warner was caught behind in the 10th over, Khawaja made the most of his reprieve.
The wickets kept tumbling around him, though, Guptill going some way to make up for his earlier errors. Positioned at leg gully, Guptill dived to take an incredible reaction catch from a fiercely hit Smith pull shot.
Australia were on the ropes at 3-46 and Marcus Stoinis (21) and Glenn Maxwell (1) failed to step up as the Black Caps assumed favouritism.
But Carey changed the momentum, hitting the second ball he faced for four with a stunning cover drive in a statement of intent.
The runs flowed for Carey as Khawaja, who was dropped again, this time by wicket-keeper Latham, played the anchor role.
New Zealand let things drift, too, and it was not until the 43rd over that the partnership was broken, Williamson finally dismissing Carey when he picked out Guptill in the field.
Cummins chipped in with an important 19-ball 23 but could only watch the final over carnage as Boult finished with a flurry.
The wickets came too late, though, Khawaja’s patient and mature knock and Carey’s ball-striking proving crucial in yet another Australia victory.