Question: What do you get when you pair the two most in-form teams of the tournament?
Answer: The best match of the tournament by far.
While Australia were minor favourites for this, any advantage they may have had was soon eroded by some great fast bowling. They conceded some bonus runs, including five wides off the first ball, but taking four early wickets was more than worth it. That the fightback had to start from the eighth over shows just how far ahead West Indies were, but Steve Smith stood strong, first with Stoinis, then with Carey and finally with Nathan Coulter-Nile.
The catch to dismiss him was one of the greatest of all time, as the ball sailed well over the rope before Sheldon Cottrell even laid a finger on it, yet he still pulled it back in one handed. Nathan Coulter-Nile bettered his previous highest score of 36 by compiling an incredible 92 to set up a respectful 288 but it never looked like enough, until it was.
Terrible umpiring led to Chris Gayle being given out incorrectly twice, and the third time should have been not out too, had the umpiring not missed an obvious no ball call the ball before. There were two more blunders after that, all against West Indies, to be one of the worst umpired games since DRS came in, but it didn’t affect the result.
Wickets at just the wrong times for West Indies kept it as a 50/50 chase, then Mitchell Starc cleaned up in the end to grant Australia victory by 15 runs. Wow. Just wow. Surely right now these two teams look like the World Cup finalists.
Can’t get enough Cricket? Be sure to check out our Pinch Hitters World Cup Power Rankings after Week One here.
Five Things We Learned:
(1) Even when West Indies lose they look great
Few people would say that West Indies look like a team who had to qualify for the tournament or were generally out of form when they saw this. The batting, the bowling, the fielding, the salutes from Sheldon Cottrell when taking a wicket or taking one of the greatest catches of all time, it was all incredible. You can almost pencil in a West Indies vs Australia final after watching this. It was probably the equal of the New Zealand vs Australia match in the 2015 World Cup, and that match ended up being the final.
(2) Steve Smith is just wow
Anyone who thought that David Warner and Steve Smith were going to flop need only look at this innings to know just how wrong they are, or Warner’s in the previous match, or either or both of them in the practice matches. He might not have been given the man of the match award, but he was the one that brought them back before Coulter-Nile made the most of it and Mitchell Starc cleaned up in the end. Smith was my pick for man of the match, though. It took one of the best catches of all time to dismiss him.
(3) West Indies fast bowling is wow
Five fast bowlers firing on all cylinders, complete with a fun salute from Sheldon Cottrell gave visions of the 1970s greatness. West Indies always look better with pace than with spin and they proved it here. I have to wonder if Ashley Nurse could have been left out and they played a 6th fast bowler, or at least a fast bowling all-rounder. Keiron Pollard and Dwayne Bravo were both left out of this squad and they could have been very useful here. It was pretty incredible to see, though, and I suspect that if Smith wasn’t in this side for Australia and doing what he did then Australia would have lost badly. It took something incredible to stop them.
(4) Australia are right now World Cup favourites
I don’t know what the official odds are, but to see the way that they beat the form team of the tournament, after being well behind, was the kind of mettle required to win the World Cup. It’s still early days but they are certainly looking like the real deal. India and England may yet provide greater challenges, as may South Africa if they get their dream run going, but right now it’s all Australia.
(5) Bad umpiring is still bad even when DRS is involved
DRS reversed the decision 5 times during the West Indian batting innings, 2 of them from Chris Gayle, and it probably should have been 3, as the umpires missed a huge no ball the ball before Chris Gayle was finally given out off an “umpires call” LBW decision. Had that no ball been called, it would have been a free hit and the LBW wouldn’t have counted. Bad umpiring and it was all one way. At least, unlike the Bangladesh vs India quarter final in 2015, they were able to get the terrible decisions overturned, but it doesn’t stop this being awful umpiring. This will go down as one of the worst umpired matches in ODI history, competing with that 2015 World Cup quarter final of Bangladesh against India. This was worse but it did less to affect the result. This is why we have DRS. We just need to get rid of “umpire’s call” and replace it with the more consistent “benefit of the doubt to the batsman” and we’re good. Whether we want the 3rd umpire to constantly monitor for no balls is another issue entirely. Maybe we could have a line that beeps when they overstep.