Australia pick up the pace before showdown with India in World Cup final

17 November 2023 - 09:58
By Reuters
Australia's Mitchell Starc and captain Pat Cummins celebrate their team's 2023 Cricket World Cup semifinal win over South Africa.
Image: Pankaj Nangia/Gallo Images/Getty Images Australia's Mitchell Starc and captain Pat Cummins celebrate their team's 2023 Cricket World Cup semifinal win over South Africa.

Australia head into their World Cup decider against India with all pieces in place after a devastating return to form of their vaunted pace attack in the semifinal against South Africa.

Power play wickets had proved elusive for the five-time champions, but the withering opening spells of Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood were decisive against the Proteas in the three-wicket win in Kolkata.

With captain Pat Cummins, the fire and ice duo of Starc and Hazlewood had previously been left in the shade by leg-spinner Adam Zampa and his 22 victims at the tournament.

On Thursday, however, the quicks grabbed eight of the 10 wickets between them for a handy confidence boost before the test against India's peerless batting machine.

“It's probably not been the tournament I would have liked from the get-go,” Starc told reporters.

“But nice to step up in a big game.”

Pace has never failed to be a factor in Australia's white ball triumphs and proved key when Aaron Finch's squad won the nation's maiden T20 World Cup in the UAE in 2021.

For all-rounder Glenn Maxwell, the glow in the Australian dressing room is akin to the squad's ebullience during the UAE tournament where they peaked at the right time.

Australia's quicks will again be looking to make early inroads against the hosts, who racked up 397 for four in their semifinal against New Zealand in Mumbai.

New Zealand's pacemen failed to deal with the heat brought by India captain Rohit Sharma and fellow opener Shubman Gill who paved the way for the Virat Kohli and Shreyas Iyer centuries.

“It's huge and the bigger the game the more important it becomes,” said Hazlewood of capturing early wickets.

“So we know the blueprint now if we're bowling first and hopefully go again on Sunday.”

Ahmedabad's pitch is likely to be a major talking point after the Mumbai semifinal where the hosts made a late change and served up a slow wicket.

Australia beat England in Ahmedabad on a pitch Hazlewood described as good “without being an absolute flat track”.

He said he expected similar for the final but was confident Australia's quicks would be able to deal with any conditions.

“We've been around the block a few times now and we've seen that with India, apart from that one game against us, they've played three quicks for the majority as well and they've been outstanding,” he said.

“So we know it can be done, we've seen them do it and we've been here a lot of times now so we know how to bowl in these conditions.”