‘Most-feared’ ready to fight

AFTER gathering strength over the past three months, Australia rediscovered its swagger on Monday night to head into the World Cup as one of the most-feared outfits.

Australia had a mountain to climb back in February when it had lost five-consecutive bilateral ODI series and 18 of its past 22 matches. Thoughts of Australia defending the World Cup were almost laughable back then.
But a miraculous turnaround has been completed in time for the tournament, and then built upon a cruisy five-wicket win over Sri Lanka in Southampton on Monday night before their World Cup campaign begins on Saturday.
It would be quicker to name who didn’t take a wicket in the first innings, when Sri Lanka was restricted to 8-239 from its 50 overs.
Eight players were tossed the ball and the eight wickets were shared between seven, with Adam Zampa (2-39) the only bowler to take multiple wickets.
From there, the result never looked in doubt.
Usman Khawaja oozed class with every stroke as he played his way to 89 runs off 105 balls, making one last push for an opening spot at the World Cup.
Also instrumental was Shaun Marsh – one-half of an 80-run partnership with Khawaja before holing out in the deep to Dhananjaya de Silva.
That brought to the crease Glenn Maxwell whose 36 off as many balls was of premium quality, and effectively assured victory was only a matter of ‘when’, not ‘if’.
Needing 79 runs off 119 balls, there was still some work to do, but nothing Australia couldn’t easily handle.
Marcus Stoinis scored at more than a run-a-ball for his 32 before he was caught at deep midwicket off Jeffrey Vandersay. Khawaja was then narrowly stumped 11 runs short of a century to give Vandersay his second, but Alex Carey (18) and Pat Cummins (9) completed the job soon after.
Australia won the match with 31 balls remaining, and didn’t even need Steve Smith or David Warner to swing a bat.
Smith played in the match and took a wicket (1-9), but was placed down the order to afford the likes of Marsh, Maxwell and Stoinis more time at the crease. Warner was rested entirely due to soreness.
Australia now starts its World Cup campaign, with its first match coming against Afghanistan in Bristol this Saturday.