Australia cruise to thumping victory
David Warner and Glenn Maxwell both break Australian World Cup records in big win over Afghanistan at the WACA Ground
Adam Burnett WACA Ground
4 March 2015, 11:30 PM AEST
Australia have steamrolled their way to the biggest win in Cricket World Cup history with a victory over Associate nation Afghanistan in their Pool A encounter at the WACA Ground in Perth.
Chasing Australia’s gargantuan 6-417 – the highest total in World Cup history – the Afghans were never in the hunt, bowled out for 142 in the 38th over to complete a 275-run defeat.
Only New Zealand, with a 290-run win over Ireland in 2008, have enjoyed a more one-sided contest in the 3623 ODIs that have been played since the format began in 1971.
David Warner did all he could to divert attention from the axing of Shane Watson with a devastating 178, and the opening batsman found company in carnage via contrasting innings from Steve Smith (95) and Glenn Maxwell (88).
Warner’s innings is the highest by an Australian at World Cups, and his partnership of 260 with Smith broke the all-time Australian ODI record as the co-hosts underlined the gulf in class between the world’s best and the Associate nations, surpassing India’s previous record World Cup total of 5-413, made against Bermuda in 2007.
Watson was the man in the headlines before play began, after the 33-year-old was dropped for the return of fellow allrounder James Faulkner.
Quick Single: Watson dropped as Faulkner returns
Chairman of the National Selection Panel Rod Marsh was at pains to point out that the decision “doesn’t mean anything going forward”, but given the presence of Faulkner and Mitchell Marsh, Watson faces stiff competition to regain his spot in the team.
Afghanistan captain Mohammad Nabi was roundly applauded for his bold decision to bowl first, with the upshot being that – barring a repeat of last Saturday’s spectacular collapse – the home crowd would be treated to a full 50 overs of their team batting.
And they certainly got value for money.
After edging Dawlat Zadran to Nabi at first slip, Aaron Finch (4) will have been kicking himself that he wasn’t a part of the run feast that followed.
For a brief period, the Afghans kept proceedings in check, their opening bowlers aided impressively by some committed ground fielding from a side desperate to make a statement on the cricket world’s biggest stage.
By the same token, Warner didn’t hit his stride until he was into his thirties, but when he did, there was little that anyone seemed capable of doing about it.
A pair of fours in the ninth over was followed by three more in the 10th as the run rate quickly accelerated to beyond a run a ball, and seemingly from nowhere, Warner had reached fifty.
Smith, returning to the position where previously he had made two hundreds from eight ODI innings, worked his way into proceedings with the patience of a master craftsman.
He and Warner took singles aplenty, scampered or strolled, depending on the level of urgency. But generally it was the latter; rarely at any point in their epic stand did the pair appear hurried, by either the pace of the ball or the overarching context of 50 overs.
It wasn’t until the 30th over, after Warner had notched his fourth ODI century, that there was any notable shift in intention.
Quick Single: Warner breaks Aussie World Cup record
Between them, Smith and Warner took 23 from Dawlat’s offerings, the latter’s two sixes marking the first of the innings.
In the next 19 overs, another dozen followed.
Warner went past Matthew Hayden’s 158 to own the highest World Cup score by an Australian, passed his own highest ODI score, and moved into third on the list of highest Australian ODI scores behind Watson (185) and Hayden (181) when he was finally out for 178.
Captain Michael Clarke selflessly avoided the temptation to bat himself when he promoted Maxwell ahead of him, and the stunning display that the Victorian swiftly produced made it a masterstroke.
The fact that Smith was nearing another hundred in a memorable summer for the New South Welshman faded into near irrelevance as Maxwell did what he does when on song, clearing the sizeable WACA perimeter with nonchalance as he sped to 50 from 21 balls – the fastest half-ton by an Australian at World Cups.
Smith briefly returned to the spotlight when he holed out to mid off for 95 to give cult hero Shapoor Zadran, who toiled manfully, a second wicket.
James Faulkner was also given a promotion by the skipper, but by this point it mattered little who was at the non-striker’s end as Maxwell frequently delivered the freakish.
Combining his unique arsenal of strokes with immaculate timing and sheer power, the Victorian lit up the back end of the innings with his best AB de Villiers impersonation, utilising every area of the ground in the manner of the brilliant South African, blazing 88 from 39 deliveries.
Quick Single: Maxwell posts record half-century
Face-painted warrior Hamid Hassan ensured Faulkner’s stay in the middle was brief, clean bowling the Tasmanian for seven with an impressive yorker, and as Clarke opted out of the pyrotechnics, it was left to local boy Mitchell Marsh (eight) and wicketkeeper-batsman Brad Haddin (20 not out from nine balls) to push Australia past 400 for just the second time, and the first on home soil.
With Afghanistan facing a near impossible target, interest largely surrounded either how quickly Australia could complete the contest or what sort of fight the fledgling cricket nation could put up.
The first breakthrough came in the seventh over, and it was a change of Mitch at the Lillee-Marsh end that did the trick for the Australians, Johnson replacing Starc and inducing a false shot from Usman Ghani (12) with his third delivery to gift Faulkner an easy chance at mid on.
Next over, Josh Hazlewood found Ahmadi’s (12) edge and Clarke did the rest at second slip to leave Afghanistan two down.
Suddenly the prospect of an early conclusion loomed large.
Afghanistan’s No.3 batsman Nawroz Mangal showed admirable intent in sending Hazlewood back down the ground for consecutive fours in the 10th over, and then welcomed Marsh to the crease with a pair of sixes that gave the pocket of Afghans in the crowd something to cheer about.
But between those exploits he lost another partner, Johnson grabbing a second wicket via a skied shot from Asghar Stanikzai (4) that Smith did exceptionally well to hang onto running back toward third man as the presence of Marsh drew harrowingly near.
As Marsh leaked plenty from one end, Clarke brought himself on at the other – a curious decision given neither Maxwell nor Faulkner had been thrown the ball.
But the skipper, who before this match boasted 56 ODI wickets with a best of 5-35, persisted with his left-arm tweakers, and was rewarded in his fifth over with the wicket of Samiullah Shenwari (17) to break a 48-run stand for the fourth wicket.
At the other end, Marsh was withdrawn from the attack after leaking 25 from three overs but more worryingly for the Australians, visibly limping toward the end of his spell.
The allrounder consulted with Bupa Support Team physio Alex Kountouris at the drinks break and looked likely to exit the action, but instead resumed his place in the field.
Johnson replaced him in the attack with immediate effect, Finch this time doing the catching to remove the dangerous Mangal (33), and in some style as he dove to his right at first slip to snare his contender for catch of the tournament.
Next to go was captain Nabi (2), reaching forward to the second delivery of Maxwell’s spell and top edging a sweep shot that gave Clarke the simplest of catches at slip.
Strangely, the batsman reviewed the decision. Stranger still, despite replays showing clear contact with the bat, Snicko failed to flicker. Nonetheless, common sense prevailed and Nabi was sent packing, leaving his side in a world of trouble at 6-103.
Seventh-wicket pair Afsar Zazai and Najibullah Zadran battled hard for a 28-run stand before the latter’s cameo of 24, including a massive six off Maxwell, was rudely ended by a Starc yorker.
The left-arm quick repeated the dose four balls later, another searing yorker clean bowling Dawlat for nought.
Zazai prolonged the innings – and Australia’s frustrations – for 40 deliveries, making 10 before Hazlewood finally found his inside edge and Haddin did the rest.
It brought to the crease Shapoor, the hero of the Afghans’ win against Scotland, but there was no opportunity for such a fairytale for the No.11 tonight, Johnson completing a four-wicket haul with the final wicket of Hassan, caught by Warner at mid off to round out the most comprehensive ODI thrashing ever seen in Australia.
Australia: David Warner, Aaron Finch, Steve Smith, Michael Clarke, Glenn Maxwell, Mitchell Marsh, James Faulkner, Brad Haddin, Mitchell Johnson, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood
Afghanistan: Javed Ahmadi, Usman Ghani, Nawroz Mangal, Asghar Stanikzai, Samiullah Shenwari, Mohammad Nabi (c), Najibullah Zadran, Afsar Zazai (wk), Dawlat Zadran, Hamid Hassan, Shapoor Zadran