Australia's top World Cup moments
Super Starc, Magic Maxwell and the catches that could have won matches
Andrew Ramsey and cricketcomau
7 April 2015, 05:37 PM AEST
Australia's march to a record fifth ICC Cricket World Cup crown was highlighted by moments of madness, magic and memories none shall forget anytime soon.
Michael Clarke and his men dropped just one match in the tournament - by the smallest of margins - on their way to a dominant seven-wicket win in the final a little over a week ago.
To refresh your memory, here are six moments that the victor's triumphant campaign will be remembered for.
Finch capitalises on England error
Aaron Finch blasted a memorable MCG century to get Australia’s World Cup campaign off to a rollicking start in their opening group game. But it could all have been so different.
Finch was on nought, facing just his second ball of the tournament when he clipped James Anderson towards midwicket.
Chris Woakes had taken a few steps inside the circle, he leapt up, but the chance went through his hands and ran into the outfield as the batsman took two.
While Dave Warner fell for 22, Shane Watson outside edging his first ball and Steve Smith inside-edging onto the stumps for just five, Australia’s top order wobbled just a little. Had Finch been caught on zero the middle order of George Bailey (55) and Glenn Maxwell (66) may not have been able to play with as much freedom as Australia racked up 9-342 from their 50 overs.
As it was, Finch wasn’t to offer another chance until the 37th over, when he misjudged an attempt at a single and was run out by a direct hit.
The foundation had been laid, not only in this game but Finch’s innings had wider ramifications for the tournament.
Australia’s right-handed opener followed that century with scores of 14, 4, 24, 20 and 2 then hit 81 in the semi-final against India, before falling for a duck in the final.
Add a zero to the start of that sequence and it is possible Finch – and the National Selection Panel – may have felt increased pressure on the opening berth.
However, Woakes dropped the chance, Finch posted 135, Australia won the match by 111 runs and the team was able to avoid the distraction of speculation over an opener’s spot.
Finch makes England pay after drop
Starc heroics almost save Aussies
The hype surrounding the group stage clash between the tournament co-hosts felt like the grand opening of a Hollywood blockbuster, not a cricket match.
And like most classic feature films, the format of the Eden Park Epic followed a movie script; first the setting of the scene, followed by a conflict between the two antagonists before a gripping climax.
After a steady opening foray in sun-bathed Auckland, left-arm swing bowler Trent Boult ripped the visitors apart, leaving keeper-batsman Brad Haddin to pick up the pieces and will his side to 151.
Only a miracle was going to prevent the Australians being handed a humiliating thrashing, and the sight of strike bowler Mitchell Johnson being manhandled for 52 from his first four overs suggested that was as unlikely as Brendon McCullum emerging from the game without a bruise.
But when he was switched to the northern end from which his fellow Mitchell had been operating, Starc sent a pulse though his team and a shiver of uncertainty around the packed ground with a pair of deliveries that would have done Boult proud.
Bowling full, fast and with the hooping swing that had been absent in the early overs, Starc left Ross Taylor looking as flat-footed as so many of the Australians’ top-order and flattened his off stump in the process.
At that point, dinner – day-night cricket’s immovable feast – was taken with appetites doubtless dampened in both dressing rooms and then no sooner had play resumed then that Australian vision threatened fleetingly to appear.
Having spent much of the break honing his radar by bowling at a single stump out in the centre, Starc produced a peach that Grant Elliott was clearly unable to stomach and his late bid to arrest its path merely gave it unfettered access to his stumps.
An agitated murmur percolated through the Eden Park stands, and even though Corey Anderson negotiated a searching hat-trick delivery it was merely an entrée to the enthralling final course that a most extraordinary spell was destined to serve.
Starc claimed 3-4 from three overs in a devastating second spell to finish with 6-28 for the match, remarkable figures given his team ended up on the losing side.
Starc stars in World Cup epic
Maxwell's golden innings
When he discarded a gilt-edged chance for a maiden ODI century against Afghanistan four days prior, it was thought Glenn Maxwell would never have a better chance to snare himself a slice of World Cup history.
Having reached 88 from just 39 balls against the bedazzled associate team, Maxwell looked to have the benchmark for the fastest hundred the tournament has seen (held by Ireland’s Kevin O’Brien from 50 balls) at his mercy.
Until he unselfishly holed out to extra cover as Australia set a new mark for the highest team total at a World Cup.
Four days hence and that record was once more Maxwell's for the plucking.
True to his pre-tournament words that he would curb his usual rush to get his innings underway – even though he had reverse swept the second ball he faced against the Afghans for four – Maxwell scored at a run a ball for the first 10 deliveries he negotiated with a diligent respect.
He was 11 balls in before he scored his first boundary.
And 12 before he belted the first of his four sixes.
But from there it was pure, refined Maxwell as he largely eschewed his more outrageous innovations in favour of more recognisable cricket shots, not that he sacrificed any potency in the process.
His half-century arrived at the usual clip, from 26 deliveries which in days of yore would have been sufficient on its own to send the telexes a-clattering.
However, when Kumar Sangakkara failed to grasp the false stroke that appeared set to once again leave Maxwell marooned in the 90s, an opportunity to again take O’Brien’s record presented itself instead.
An equation of five runs from four balls or less seemed absurdly straightforward for a batsman seemingly able to punch, flick, club or ramp the ball to whatever portion of unprotected boundary takes his fancy.
Whether he was oblivious of the honour that beckoned or was simply – given the sobering reprieve he had been gifted – galvanised into ensuring he was not left to rue another squandered start Maxwell played with a restraint not seen since those first 10 balls.
A moment to ink his name alongside the lone Irish representative currently in the game’s annals when Maxwell advised umpire Ian Gould – himself celebrating a century of ODI appearances – that the single that would have carried him to three figures off 50 deliveries was, in reality, a leg bye.
That it came off 51 will trouble Maxwell not a jot given the scope and sincerity of the celebration he unleashed when it was reached.
A thrashing of his bat, a prolonged hug with burly batting partner Shane Watson, and a tear or three that might have been prompted by the conversion of a millstone into a milestone or by where he found himself upon completing his 100th run – just metres from where his close mate Phillip Hughes was felled, a death that Maxwell has revealed deeply affected him.
Or most likely, a hybrid of the two.
The innings cemented Maxwell in Australia’s top order, and with it meant he and his comrades would all-but avoid South Africa in the quarter-finals, and more significantly, their trans-Tasman rivals in the semi-final stage.
Maxwell's marvellous World Cup
You just dropped (out of) the World Cup
The appearance of former World Cup winning skipper Steve Waugh in Australia team kit at training during the lead-up to the third quarter-final might not necessarily have rekindled that famous Headingley 1999 memory when Waugh never actually delivered the fabled line to South Africa’s Herschelle Gibbs.
But if it was ever to be revived, it would have been to a devastated Rahat Ali after he shelled a straightforward fly ball in front of the unforgiving scoreboard hill crowd at a crucial moment in Australia’s faltering run chase.
And most distressingly for Pakistan and their fans who had started to believe, it ruined a cleverly thought out and brilliantly executed (up until the denouement) plan.
Shane Watson had endured one of the most torrid spells of hostile fast bowling seen in an ODI in Australia for many a summer, surviving by the skin of his teeth and the speed of his instincts as balls flashed past his head, shoulders and gloves.
When he finally felt it was time to try and land a counter-punch, his innings flashed before his eyes as his hurriedly executed hook shot which was part evasive action hit high on the bat to the same fielder at fine leg who had held on to an excellent and far tougher running chance a few overs earlier.
As the ball hung against the Adelaide night sky, framed momentarily with the postcard background of the historic Adelaide Oval scoreboard and the stately St Peter’s Cathedral, the aforementioned told the story of the plight Australia was about to find themselves in.
Watson was on four, his team was wobbling at 3-83 in pursuit of Pakistan’s 213 and the visitors were on the charge.
As the ball slipped through Rahat’s uncertain, ungainly grip the chorus of exhalation that whooshed throughout the stadium was largely disbelief, partly disappointment or relief depending on which coloured lens the moment was being viewed through.
And it soon became obvious as Watson led his team to a World Cup semi-final meeting against India and Pakistan’s chance to tackle their arch-foes in the mother of all knockout bouts was replaced by a long-haul flight home, it carried the unmistakable hiss of air billowing from the tyres of the green bandwagon.
Wahab's magnificent spell
Johnson strikes late ... with the bat
Winnng a crucial toss and electing to bat, Michael Clarke’s men were in firm control of their semi-final clash against India at the SCG, following their ODI batting blueprint to a tee as they came within sight of their launching point – the 35th over of their innings.
Two well-set batsmen were at the crease.
One of them, Steve Smith, having clubbed 14 in the space of three deliveries to achieve a century and a licence to flail.
The 2nd power play had been taken and gaps aplenty in the outfield.
But that’s where the plan began to come unstuck, with Smith (105) and Finch (81) falling in consecutive overs, which brought the previous iteration of the team’s top-order together with the tough assignment of getting going from the get-go.
Not surprisingly against a revitalised bowling attack on a dry surface that had softened up both new balls, Shane Watson and Michael Clarke took time to find their range and their timing as overs ticked by and agitation began to percolate through the non-Indian parts of the crowd.
It was only when Australia’s preferred finisher James Faulkner replaced Clarke that the trend line began to track upwards once more, but even his 21 from 12 balls looked to have left Australia a touch skinny at 6-284 with three and a half overs to go and the bowlers to follow.
Enter the auxiliary finisher, Mitchell Johnson, whose batting across three World Cup campaigns since 2007 had netted him a grand total of 29 runs from seven innings with a high score of 12 – albeit not out.
But with the usually explosive Brad Haddin playing support, Johnson blazed an invaluable and undefeated 27 from just nine balls faced, with 13 off the penultimate over from Mohammed Shami and a further 14 from the one following bowled by Mohit Sharma.
It not only ensured India had to make World Cup semi-final history but that Australia carried a head full of steam into their bowling innings, which again starred Johnson.
Johnson, Smith set up semi-final win
Starc blows Black Caps away with one ball
So much was to ride on the Black Caps’ talismanic captain Brendon McCullum, especially after the coin fell in his favour and logic dictated that he forego his team’s preferred strategy of batting second in what was his nation’s biggest match – the World Cup final.
All the talk of how the scope of the occasion would not faze a team that had never previously visited the last day of a World Cup tournament and the nonchalantly relaxed vibe of New Zealand’s pre-match training session was then jettisoned in the skipper’s skittish three-ball duck.
McCullum not only sets the tone for his batsmen, he has become a rallying point for his nation’s cricketing self-belief so to see the way he was worked over by Mitchell Starc and sent on his way in the first over meant a loud and long rush of air from the tyres of the Black Caps’ bandwagon.
It could so easily have been over after one ball.
McCullum’s airy drive at the first one that came his way flashed past the inside edge of his wafting blade and came so close to knocking over his off stump the zing stumps circuitry thought about lighting up in what would have been a famous case of premature illumination.
Having seen on the huge stadium screen how precarious was his near miss, McCullum decided to charge at the next delivery but, as Test quick Ryan Harris foreshadowed in his cricket.com.au blog, the Australian saw him advance and followed him, cramping the captain for room.
If two successive air swings were not sufficient to alert McCullum to the peril that Starc posed, the third ensured the visiting captain’s World Cup final batting memories will be brief, bitter and bereft of any contact between bat and ball.
The fact that Starc’s laser-like inswinging yorker bounced between the batting crease and the stumps meant that McCullum, feet anchored and bat jabbing more in hope than with authority, essentially missed a full toss.
Starc later revealed it was a careful plan that he and bowling coach Craig McDermott had been crafting for days leading into the final.
The odds on that happening in pre-game markets would have been as long as his team’s chances of lifting their first World Cup in the wake of such a diabolical start.
Starc would finish with two victims for the match and 22 for the campaign and be crowned the Player of the Tournament, while he got to share with his a teammates a fifth World Cup title.
Super Starc knocks over McCullum