Australia seems to be going from strength to strength as the World Cup is reaching the business end !! Like true World Champion team they are peaking at the right time and are really looking formidable now with two back to back wins against quality opposition at Lords. Expected to be stretched by their Trans-Tasman rivals, New Zealand , the Aussies managed to wriggle themselves out of a potential tough situation at 92/5 during their batting innings , further survived a terrific Trent Boult hattrick, to finally decimate a timid looking batting lineup of New Zealand with a clinical bowling display to win by 86 runs.
Aaron Finch batted first on winning the toss at a sun drenched Lords , but the Aussies had to contend with hostile bowling spells from Trent Boult and a sharp Lockie Fergusion as Finch (8) went lbw to Boult , Warner (16)gloved a snorter from Fergusion and Smith (5) caught brilliantly by Guptill off a pull off Fergusion to reduce the Aussies to 46/3. Then Jimmy Neesham got into the act getting Stoinis (18) and Maxwell(1) cheaply, the latter playing a loose shot at the wrong moment raising questions about his temperament . Aussies reduced to 92/5
Usman Khawaja had a few slices of luck but held on grimly and found an able partner in Alex Carey who looked the only comfortable batsman from either side on a sluggish pitch. Together the left handed pair added 104 runs. Carey played sparkling strokes all round the ground to score a superb 71 off 72 balls with 11 crisp boundaries and thereby setting up a case of a batting order promotion maybe ahead of both Stoinis and Maxwell. Khawaja played a dogged 88 off 129 balls and was the 1st of Trent Boult’s hattrick victims in the innings’ 50th over. After bowling Khawaja , Boult (4/51) uprooted middle stump of Starc and trapped Berendorff lbw to keep Australia down to 243/9 in 50 overs and completed a brilliant hattrick . Cummins was left high and dry with 23 notout off 19 balls. Fergusion bowled at rapid pace to get 2/49 and Neesham contributed with 2/28.
In reply the Black Caps started cautiously mindful of their fragile opening batting. Guptill was grinding it out and so was Henry Nicholls who replaced Colin Munro. However a ruthlessly professional bowling performance by the Aussie attack continued to choke the Kiwis as Jason Berendorff, a resounding success since his late introduction into the XI, had Nicholls caught down legside and then trapped Guptill with an incutter. Skipper Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor forged a 55 run stand but could never get on top of an Aussie attack, bowling with pinpoint accuracy. Finally Williamson (40) , earlier dropped off Lyon , was finally consumed by Starc as he tried to nudge one past the keeper. Taylor(30) followed soon after , caught off a skied pull off Cummins. The lower order was totally all at sea as the Australian bowlers completely dried up the runs . With lack of positive intent shown by New Zealand ,wickets started falling in clusters with even par timer Steve Smith getting a wicket !! Smith also took a blinder of a catch to end a timid innings from Tom Latham. Michell Starc again was the wreaker-in-chief getting 5/26 , his 3rd 5-fer in World Cups and is far and away the highest wicket taker in current edition with 24 wickets. Behrendorff, Cummins , Lyon–all bowled superbly. The Black caps folded up meekly for 157 to lose by 86 runs and Alex Carey got the man of the match award for his excellent and fluent innings of 71 on a difficult pitch.
The Aussies are now really looking a strong outfit with all bases covered and seems to have struck the right balance in their bowling attack with 4 wicket taking bowlers . Perhaps they may consider sending Carey slightly higher up the batting order to maximise his batting form. The Black Caps too poccess a top bowling attack but look to have multiple issues in their batting with several off form players and too much pressure on Williamson and Taylor to score runs at every outing. Still stuck at 11 points off 8 games and a dented runrate, the Kiwis may well have their work cut out vs England in their last league fixture with their semifinal spot still not yet confirmed.