Australia fielding highlights gulf

Two days ago, Australia's coach Darren Lehmann spoke of the importance of sharp fielding in this tournament. "History shows if you're the best fielding side in the World Cup," Lehmann said, "you go a long way to winning it." On the evidence of Australia's first match of this campaign, they should go a long way to winning it.

The differences between Australia and England with bat and ball were stark, but so were those in the field. England missed both of Australia's openers within the first five overs of the match; the life that Chris Woakes at midwicket gave to Aaron Finch in the first over proved particularly harmful as Finch went on to score 135 and set up Australia's win.

Australia clasped almost anything that came their way when the match was on the line, although Finch did uncharacteristically put down a sitter in the deep when James Taylor was on 20. It mattered little, for England were already 113 for 6.

Finch had already made a sharp take at short midwicket to get rid of Gary Ballance. George Bailey, Mitchell Starc and Brad Haddin all took good catches as well, but the stand-out was Steven Smith's stunning dive at short cover when Jos Buttler had creamed the ball off the middle of the bat.

"It was a phenomenal catch," Finch said. "Jos hit that really hard, right out of the screws, and the balance, timing and everything [from Smith] was unbelievable."

It was typical of Australia's incisive display throughout the innings. In the ninth over, Bailey hurled himself to his left at mid-off to reduce a certain Ian Bell boundary to a single, and half a dozen of his team-mates jogged in to congratulate him on the effort. A wicket fell in the next over.

"If you're bowling well and you're getting supported in the field, you're saving so many runs and you're putting a lot of pressure on," Finch said. "Everyone trains so hard on their fielding. If you get a chance, make sure you get to a training session where you can watch Glenn Maxwell, David Warner and Steve Smith all training, it's a big competition with each other.

"It's something that is pretty special to see, and you can see why these guys can repeatedly do it in a game, because they train so hard. But the big thing for us is that we're not worried about making mistakes.

"We're not worried about dropping a catch or misfielding; that's the nature of the game, that happens, unfortunately. But when you have an attitude like that and you're not worried about the consequence you put your body on the line and you end up pulling off more spectacular things."

Australia's fielding has not always been so sharp in recent times. During their two-Test series against Pakistan in the UAE in October-November they put down 11 catches. But in the lead-up to this tournament, fielding coach Mike Young has been a constant presence alongside Greg Blewett, drilling the players hour after hour.

Still, the occasional mistake slips through, such as the life Finch gave to Taylor, who went on to make 98 not out. The chance given to Finch from the fifth ball of the game was much more costly.

"No-one means to drop a catch," Finch said. "I dropped one out there. It just happened we were well in front at the time. Fortunately it went my way today, and Davey [Warner] also got a chance early, but other days it doesn't."

England's captain, Eoin Morgan, said he was disappointed that mistakes had crept into all aspects of their performance, including their fielding.

"The most frustrating thing is that we made errors that we haven't been making on this trip," Morgan said. "Australia played well, but we had opportunities to take the game to them and we didn't take them. Things we've been doing well for this last month let us down today. We got two chances really early which was frustrating more than anything else."