Mitchell Starc mauls West Indies in gutsy World Cup win for Australia | Sport


In the late sun of a long, sweet summer day, a match that had passages as intense as any Test, twists and turns as silly as any game of T20, finally finished in a 15-run victory for Australia.

In the moments after it was over it was not obvious exactly how they had done it since they had been 79 for five in their innings and West Indies 190 for four in theirs, chasing 288. But then there was a lot to chew over, threatening fast bowling, masterly batting, wild and ludicrous six?hitting, some slapstick catches that were dropped, some improbable ones that were held, an amateurish run-out. There was a lot of everything you would want in a game.

And a little of what you would not, too. The umpires, Chris Gaffaney and Ruchira Palliyaguruge, both had bad matches. West Indies overturned four decisions on review. Two of them were given against Chris Gayle by Gaffaney, one for a catch behind when the ball had actually missed his bat, another, two balls later, for an lbw off a ball that would have missed leg stump. Reckoning then that this was his lucky day, Gayle flailed 14 runs off Pat Cummins in the next over, with fours through long-off, midwicket and long-on. And then Gaffaney gave him out a third time, lbw to Mitchell Starc again.

Gayle called for another review but this time the footage showed the ball was just clipping the leg-stump. What it did not catch, however, was that the previous delivery had been a no-ball, by a huge margin too, so Gayle should have had a free-hit off the ball that took his wicket.

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Jason Holder, who overturned two lbw decisions himself, tried to be as polite as he could. “All I’ll say is I found ourselves a bit unlucky,” he said. “When I saw it [the no-ball] on the screen in the dressing room I just laughed. I couldn’t believe it. I guess things just didn’t go our way today.”

His old teammate Kieron Pollard, who is not in the squad but was watching on TV, was not so diplomatic. “Time and time again we tend to be on the wrong end of decisions,” Pollard tweeted. “Piss piss poor decision- making in the game and it continues it is blatantly alarming.”

Chris Gayle asks for his third review of his short innings.

Chris Gayle asks for his third review of his short innings. Photograph: Andrew Boyers/Action Images via Reuters

To be honest, though, West Indies were not short of things to blame. They could look, too, at the large number of wides they conceded, 24 altogether, the three catches they dropped, the reckless batting of Andre Russell, who smashed one terrific six into the second tier of the Radcliffe Road end and then sliced a catch to point, Shai Hope’s stodgy batting, the run-out that cost Shimron Hetmyer his wicket and, most of all, their batting against Starc in the crucial 46th over when Carlos Brathwaite bunted a full toss to mid-off and Holder cuffed a catch to short-leg.

The worst of it was that in parts they had been utterly brilliant. They had Australia four down in eight overs. Their bowling was white hot in that opening stretch, Oshane Thomas and Russell working as a tag-team at one end, Sheldon Cottrell at the other. The three of them were not shy with the short stuff. They peppered Usman Khawaja as if they were planning to serve him medium rare with good full?bodied red. Russell had him caught slashing at a ball as he hopped away to leg.

Then Glen Maxwell lasted all of two balls, caught off the top edge. Soon enough Australia were 79 for five, with Steve Smith (loudly, roundly booed on his way in) and Alex Carey together in the middle. They set about the slow job of rebuilding the innings. After a stretch of five runs in six overs Carey snapped and hit 36 off his next 22 deliveries, then Russell came back into the attack and had him caught behind. So they were 147 for six when Nathan Coulter?Nile came in.

Coulter-Nile seemed an unlikely sort of saviour. His 92 was not just the highest score he has made in international cricket but also in any cricket at all since he was playing for Western Australia U23s way back in 2009. If he had only cleared Holder at long-off with his last drive down the ground he would have broken Chris Woakes’s record for the highest score by a No 8 batsman in ODI cricket. All this was after he only just survived his first ball from Russell, which whistled perilously close to his off-stump.

All of a sudden Coulter-Nile caught one flush, a yorker from Thomas that he managed to clip back down the ground, and everything started to flow.

Smith, 50 off 77 balls, was still labouring at the other end, fighting, sweating, striving, while Coulter?Nile pulled and drove and flicked and clipped all these glorious fours and sixes. Given another minute, he would have overtaken him but, before he did, Smith was caught, brilliantly by Cottrell, at long-leg.

He had already missed him once down there when he seemed to run around in circles but this time Cottrell came sprinting full tilt as if he was running to catch a baby from a top?floor window. He made the catch, threw the ball back up as his momentum carried him over the rope, caught it again, then finished it all off with crisp military salute. It was one perfect moment in a match that was otherwise utterly chaotic.

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