Plans fall in place for Australia's A-Team
Mitchell Starc and bowling coach Craig McDermott might have been quoting from the The A-Team during the innings break of the World Cup final. "I love it when a plan comes together". The Australians emerged from their loss to New Zealand in Auckland four weeks ago with a few questions, none more so than how to keep Brendon McCullum quiet.
At Eden Park, McCullum had faced Starc's first over of New Zealand's small chase, and smashed him for 14 runs. In all, he plundered 50 off 24 deliveries to set New Zealand on the path to victory, albeit a path that nearly stopped short of the destination. The prospect of facing New Zealand in a knockout further along in the tournament set Starc and McDermott thinking.
Their plans came together when McCullum chose to bat first in the final at the MCG. In the first over, Starc's 149kph inswinging yorker missed McCullum's bat and barely the off stump as well. Second ball: McCullum charged Starc, who followed him and again bat was not laid on ball. The third delivery was like the second, only it rattled McCullum's stumps. The crowd erupted at a defining moment.
"We've watched him a fair bit through the tournament be pretty destructive," Starc said. "He's been a key player for them right from the beginning. He's been fantastic for the Kiwis to get them off to great starts. I think after that game in New Zealand we had to assess him as we went, because he's very unpredictable.
"Personally, I had a bit of a plan going with Craig McDermott about bowling a decent yorker to him first up. I'm not sure how that first one missed, but lucky that third one hit. There's a lot of luck involved but just lucky to see that plan came off."
Starc was not surprisingly named Player of the Tournament for his 22 wickets at 10.18 and a remarkable economy rate of 3.50. His form continued in the decider when he collected 2 for 20 from his eight overs after adding Luke Ronchi's wicket, and McCullum said he had no answers for Starc in the first over of the match.
"He was a bit too good for me today, that's for sure," McCullum said. "He deserves the Man of the Tournament. He was outstanding bowling at good pace, he swung the ball late, he was incredibly accurate all the way along as well. Sometimes in this game you go in with the best-laid plans and your ideal scenario of how you see the game panning out, but sometimes a guy is just too good for you."
If Starc was too good early, the Player of the Match, James Faulkner was too good late. The other key moment of the match came when the Powerplay began in the 36th over and Faulkner used the first ball of it to catch Ross Taylor's edge with a slower delivery that ended the 111-run partnership between Taylor and Grant Elliott which had threatened to set up a challenging total. Faulkner struck again two balls later.
"I thought at times New Zealand looked like they were going to get away from us," Faulkner said. "I thought Ross Taylor and Grant Elliot had an exceptional partnership considering what happened at the start, to pull things back for them, but at the end of the day, to bowl them out for 183 was fantastic.
"I use [the slower ball] as a change of pace so the batters don't get set. I bowl in the Powerplays and at the death. If you're bowling the same ball there's more chance of you getting hit out of the park. It's the change-up I use to take wickets and also to change the batters' swing when they're trying to hit me to parts of the ground. Sometimes it doesn't come out as good as what I wanted but today it came out okay and I used it half a dozen times."
It was that kind of day for Australia, a day when all their plans came together.
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @brydoncoverdale