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Finally, Australia wake up at this year’s ODI World Cup

Last updated on 16 Oct 2023 | 06:01 PM
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Finally, Australia wake up at this year’s ODI World Cup

With Sri Lanka on 125/0, Pat Cummins was contemplating all life decisions

Phone buzzes, the time is 10 AM.

All you did was get up at 8:55 AM and put the phone on a couple of snoozes. An hour later, you are late and find yourself running your way, catching a breath or two on the way. 

Australia’s story in the ongoing ODI World Cup isn’t any different. Australia’s phone was constantly buzzing, it was all the messages of them being one of the ‘favourites’ to lift the title. Australia, though, were busy snoozing. 

A couple of snoozes - a staggering loss against India and then a humbling defeat against South Africa - later, Australia have finally woken up at the 2023 ODI World Cup. 

The story couldn’t have been timed any better. Sri Lanka got themselves off to a rollicking start, 125/0 against five-time World Champions. All the efforts from the Australian bowling attack were futile. Nothing more. 

21 overs in, it was yet again a familiar tale: a drop, a bad review, a missed review, and captain Pat Cummins putting his hands on his head. A loss here maybe could have put an end to Cummins’ leadership duties in the 50-over format, that’s how big the stakes were. Australia were heading into that sort of uncharted territory. 

Cummins then brought himself back into the attack. Collecting all the information from his bowling unit, the plan was simple: to bounce out the Sri Lankan openers. Just a few overs before, the plan nearly worked. But the pace on the ball was too much for the fielder, Marnus Labuschagne. Cummins sensed a tired shot around the corner. 

Three deliveries into the attack, Pathum Nissanka destroyed him with a crunching boundary. A delivery later, Nissanka walks back because all it required from Cummins was precision. On a pitch that really didn’t aid the bowlers, Cummins resorted to Australia’s Ashes best friend - short-ball - a ploy that they employed multiple times over the British summer. 

Two overs into his spell, Cummins somehow did the most Cummins thing: bring life back into the Lucknow pitch with a stunning delivery that moved into the southpaw Kusal Perera. First, it pegged the stumps back and then pegged the Sri Lankan dream back.


Three overs, 22 runs, ZERO WICKET. 

“Zampa isn’t quite fit at the moment,” the commentators are concerned when talking about Australia’s lead spinner Adam Zampa

Clearly, Zampa wasn’t fully fit, as he cleared in the post-match presentation. Over the last three ODIs that he has bowled, Zampa had picked just two wickets. The build-up to the World Cup wasn’t on expected lines, either. The 0/113, somehow, somewhere, still has its lingering effect over Zampa’s ability as a leg-spinner. 

The Australian leg-spinner, therefore, couldn’t have asked for better conditions - Chennai and Lucknow - to find his feet. Across both occasions, he couldn’t find his line, often either bowling too short or too full, unable to find the equilibrium. 

That’s when Cummins woke Zampa up, throwing the ball towards him. Australia have made a mini-comeback of sorts. 

Sri Lanka went from 125/0 to 157/2. 

It was now up to Zampa to make further inroads. Zampa first got the in-form Kusal Mendis to play down the wrong line. Then he bowled the leg-break that straightened, catching Sadeera Samarawickrama by total surprise. 

“A wicket-maiden.”

Somehow, these words and Zampa going together weren’t on the day’s agenda, with the leg-spinner finishing with figures of 4/47.

At 166/4, Sri Lanka found themselves really struggling. From thereon, all it took was a Starc special and some inspirational fielding efforts to restrict Sri Lanka to just 209. 

“Personally, I couldn't bowl better in the last game and to be honest, I feel I can do better but good to be at the better end of the result tonight. Again, I didn't feel at my best but want to try and keep my wicket-taking attitude,” a candid Zampa confessed in the post-match presentation. 


At the other end of the field, Australia found themselves tottering at 24/2 against Dilshan Madushanka. The lanky left-arm seamer was getting the ball to salsa around the Australian batters. Australia lost their best bet at such chases - Steve Smith. He was that insurance that had bailed them out on numerous occasions in the past. 

But they had to find one, and then they found two - Mitchell Marsh and Josh Inglis

In Travis Head’s absence, Australia decided to put all their eggs in one basket - Marsh. They wanted him to attack the bowlers and give Australia a good start. But there were some frailties even at that. The pitches thus far, barring Delhi, have shown that the openers need to show a great application to get through. 

Marsh didn’t have a great application against India or South Africa. So, at least against Sri Lanka, he should step up. But then Sri Lanka have Maheesh Theekshana, the venomous spinner, who can pose a threat to Marsh’s big-hitting abilities. 

Oh, also, Marsh had to get through Madushanka curve-balling from the other end. With Marnus Labuschagne still finding his groove, the impetus was on Marsh. Anything short, he scythed it away and anything full, he drove it as if he was at a Golf course. Even the introduction of spin wasn’t slowing the right-hander down. 

When he brought up his fifty, Australia’s first at this year’s World Cup, there was a sigh of relief in the Australian dressing room. That sigh of relief only lasted two more runs. Marsh’s run-out blew the game wide open, but the Josh was still high. 

Inglis was only brought into the playing XI at the expense of Alex Carey, who, for the longest time, served as the vice-captain of this Australian unit. Inglis was nine ODIs old. On five of those occasions, he had a single-digit score in ODI cricket. 

And now, in a crunch situation to help Australia from sliding 0-3, the responsibility was quite heavy. On any other day, Inglis could have walked back to the pavilion on the next delivery, but luck was on his side. 

Before he knew it, a full toss came his way, and off he went. 

By the time Sri Lanka knew about who Inglis was, he was busy raising his bat, scoring his second ODI half-century as they were battered and bruised. Marcus Stoinis’ finishing touches couldn’t have come at a more opportune moment for the Kangaroos. 

Australia finally woke up at the ODI World Cup in India. But are they fresh enough to now make hay while the sun shines? 

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