ICC Men's ODI World Cup 2019
Smith stands tall amid Aussies' senior players
Captain Finch disappointed his team's more experienced contingent failed to make telling contributions, with the exception of the brilliant No.3
Louis Cameron in Birmingham
12 July 2019, 10:57 AM AEST
As Aaron Finch lamented the inability of Australia's senior players to step up in the crunch, Steve Smith proved the exception as he displayed yet again he's the man for big occasion in their eight-wicket semi-final defeat to England.
Promoted to No.3 after Usman Khawaja was ruled out of the tournament, Smith extended his superb record in clutch World Cup games with a lone hand of 85 that singlehandedly kept Australia's victory hopes afloat.
Only Jos Buttler's canny direct-hit run out that nutmegged the Australian as he scrambled to make a single could stop his charge towards triple-digits.
Of players to have played at least three innings in knockout games at major ODI events, only Pakistanis Mohamamd Hafeez (192 runs at 192) and Saeed Answer (385 runs at 128.33) have more formidable records than Smith's 311 runs at 103.66.
Smith strode to the crease just seven balls into Australia's innings, as openers Finch and David Warner, who scored nearly half of their side's runs in the group stage of the tournament, were quickly relegated to the dressing room.
Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins later struggled to contain England's fearless top-order as the hosts booked their spot in the final with a resounding win.
"Our senior guys – myself, Davey, we didn't get going. Starcy didn't get going, Pat Cummins, guys that you expect to stand up in big games (didn't)," said Finch. "We were just outplayed."
While Thursday's game marked his first defeat in a World Cup elimination match, Smith's outstanding knockout ODI record was only enhanced.
And, dare one say it, elevates him above India captain Virat Kohli in that particular aspect of 50-over cricket.
None would suggest Smith is a better overall ODI player than Kohli, who has more than 11,000 runs at nearly 60 in the format, but the Indian's record in World Cup and Champions Trophy knockout matches – 275 runs at 34.37 – is well short of Smith's.
The Australian's dominant run in the crunch stages of the last World Cup in 2015 led his country to the title with a trio of key hands in big moments.
Against a fired-up Wahab Riaz in the quarter-final, he ensured there was no panic after an early wobble as he struck 65 to steer the hosts into the final four.
Then, after cracking a match-winning 105 against India in the semi-final in Sydney, he played another decisive hand in the decider against New Zealand, hitting the winning runs and finishing unbeaten on 56 as Australia hoisted the trophy for the fifth time.
Smith had some nervy moments early in his knock on Thursday, but survived terrific opening spells from Jofra Archer and Chris Woakes that had accounted for Warner, Finch and the recalled Peter Handscomb.
The latter's exit meant Australia had slumped to 3-14 just 31 balls into the match, but Smith found a capable partner in Alex Carey despite the wicketkeeper copping a bloody blow to the chin off Archer.
The 30-year-old took 36 balls to score his first boundary with a dazzling pull shot off change bowler Liam Plunkett.
As fidgety as ever, Smith found his groove as he played off his pads with comfort, flayed any width and took on the short ball assuredly en route to a 72-ball half-century.
Wickets tumbled after a 103-run fourth-wicket stand with Carey as England tried, successfully at times, to curb his run-scoring by employing a deepish leg-gully to cut off one of his most effective scoring zones.
Despite that, he worked with the tail expertly, putting on 51 for the eighth wicket with Mitchell Starc before Buttler hit the stumps to end Smith's 119-ball stay and end hopes of a second straight Cup semi-final hundred.
2019 World Cup
Australia's squad: Aaron Finch (c), Jason Behrendorff, Alex Carey (wk), Nathan Coulter-Nile, Pat Cummins, Peter Handscomb, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Glenn Maxwell, Kane Richardson, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Marcus Stoinis, David Warner, Adam Zampa
June 12: Australia beat Pakistan by 41 runs
June 15: Australia beat Sri Lanka by 87 runs
June 20: Australia beat Bangladesh by 48 runs
June 25: Australia beat England by 64 runs
July 14: Final, England v New Zealand, Lord's
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For a full list of all World Cup fixtures, click HERE