Clash of the Titans

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05 Jun 2019 | 10:40 AM
authorAvijit Dutta

Clash of the Titans

Last time West Indies clashed with Australia was back on June 26, 2016

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In the 10th match of the ICC World Cup 2019, the West Indies locks horns with Australia on Thursday, 6th June at Trent Bridge, Nottingham.
30 years back, the rivalry between West Indies and Australia was one to watch, but it has mellowed down in the recent years. The once invincible Windies are trying to find their feet again at the highest level, and finding it difficult to fill the shoes of the likes of Michael Holding, Courtney Walsh, Curtley Ambrose, Viv Richards and Brian Lara. 

Nevertheless, it is still the Windies, and they come with the guarantee of entertainment. A stat: Since the 2015 World Cup, Windies batsmen hit a six once every 34 balls, the best among all nations.
Australia too aren’t the same all conquering outfit they were 10 years back. The aura once worn by the likes of Waugh, Ponting, McGrath and Warne has been missing in the squads of recent years. Yet this Cup squad looks good, settled, and ready to take on the best. 

Both the teams are coming on the back of an impressive wins in their opening games. The Windies bowlers were in full throttle against Pakistan on Friday, May 31 at Trent Bridge, Nottingham, the same venue where they will clash with Australia. On that day, the Windies quicks bowled 66% of their deliveries on the short side of length. It was a bowling performance tinged with the nostalgia of the 80s, when the likes of Holding, Ambrose, Roberts, Marshall etc bounced out oppositions for fun. 

For Australia, the big positive is the return of David Warner in batting form. Warner scored a classy 89*against Afghanistan on Saturday, June 1. Batsmen like Warner, Finch, Smith etc are not likely to shy away from the short ball the way Pakistan did, so the Windies might need to rethink that strategy. 

Since the 2015 World Cup, the average score at Nottingham has been around 330. In the two matches played at this venue in CWC 2019, the wicket looked true. So it is vital for Australia to take Chris Gayle out early, because otherwise his opening salvos could take the game away. The Aussies will fancy their chances, though -- Gayle’s average against Australia is 27.7, his worst among all CWC 2019 teams. 

Gayle has been vulnerable against left arm pacers post the 2015 World Cup. Although he hasn’t faced them much, when he does he finds that he cannot score freely against that angle. He plays 60% dot balls when facing a left arm pacer, and when he doesn’t get any freebies he gets frustrated and tries to hit every ball, thus creating opportunities for the opposition.  

Mitchell Starc could exploit this weakness and give a headache to the Universe Boss. Gayle has faced Starc in three matches and has been dismissed once. If he survives Starc, there is Patrick Cummins to deal with. Since 2017, Cummins has a very good record against left handers: In 45 innings, he has taken a wicket of a left hander in every 21 balls compared to 34 against right handers.

Patrick Cummins reliable in every phase   

In the first overs, no other Australian bowler has taken more wickets than him. He has taken 18 wickets in 10 matches in England; in 2019, Cummins has 20 wickets in just 7 matches at an exceptional strike rate of 19.1. And what makes it worse for the opposition is that he takes 65% of wickets in his first spell.
Where Australia has a weakness is in picking wickets in the middle overs. They take a wicket every 46.5 balls, the second worst after Bangladesh, and will look to Cummins to try and solve that problem. 

You can’t use Cummins too much in the middle overs, though, because he alongside Rabada and Bumrah make for the best death bowlers in the world. Cummins has taken 21 wickets between overs 41-50, the fifth highest among pacers since 2017. 

Australian spinners can trouble the Windies 

In the two matches we have seen so far the role of spinners has been vital. Once the innings progresses the wicket becomes a bit slow and helps the spinners with a little purchase. Both the teams don’t have a spin heavy attack, but someone like Glenn Maxwell, a part-time off spinner, can come in handy given that West Indies have four left handers in their top order. Adam Zampa too can pose a threat to the strong Windies lineup. In the earlier match, Pakistan spinners made an impact against England. The spin troika of Mohammad Hafeez, Shadab Khan and Shoaib Malik took 4 wickets between them after conceding 116 runs in 20 overs.

If the top order fails, West Indies are in trouble. Their no 3 batsman Darren Bravo is struggling for runs. He has the lowest strike rate of 69 amongst batsmen who have scored a minimum of 1500 runs since 2011. Against that, the opposition has Usman Khawaja who had an exceptional 2018. Since the sandpaper fiasco, Khawaja averages 56, the best amongst all Aussie batsmen.   

At no 4 you have the inconsistent Shimron Hetmyer. Since he was given an IPL contract, the hype around him has been at its peak. Considered the next big thing in Windies cricket, he couldn’t justify his potential. A phenomenal stroke player who seems to bat with an easy grace, Hetmeyer however has seen his form fall off in the period leading up to the Cup. Post the ODI series against India, he has an abysmal batting average of 21 in his last 10 matches. 

Destructive Finishers 

Both teams have lethal finishers with the ability to change the complexion of the game within the space of 2 to 3 overs. Both Glenn Maxwell and Andre Russell are well known for their pyrotechnics, especially Russell who had a terrific IPL. Although Russell didn’t play much ODI cricket leading up to the World Cup, his confidence will be sky high. 

Australia has Glenn Maxwell, who bats with a strike rate of 122, the highest amongst all batsmen between overs 41-50 since 2017. In the past two years it seemed that he was another hit and miss player who would score a fifty here and there, but his fortunes has taken a complete U-turn in 2019. He now bats with a sense of responsibility and the results are fruitful. 

So in this clash of the titans, Australia seems to have covered all their bases and have a slight edge over the Caribbean team. We might see a run fest on our hands if either of the team fails to remove the dangerous openers early.

Probable XI:

Australia: David Warner, Aaron Finch (c), Usman Khawaja, Steve Smith, Marcus Stoinis, Glenn Maxwell, Alex Carey (wk), Patrick Cummins, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Adam Zampa, Mitchell Starc

West Indies: If Evin Lewis is fit Pooran may have to warm the bench.

Chris Gayle, Shai Hope (wk), Darren Bravo, Shimron Hetmyer, Evin Lewis/ Nicholas Pooran, Andre Russell, Jason Holder (c), Ashley Nurse, Shannon Gabriel, Oshane Thomas, Sheldon Cottrell

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ICC Cricket World Cup 2019Andre RussellChris GayleGlenn MaxwellPat Cummins

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