Alagappan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo
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Match abandoned Australia 166 for 7 (Smith 55, van der Merwe 2-12) vs Netherlands 84 for 6 (Ackermann 31*, Starc 3-18)
Steven Smith did the thing he loves most in the world. Mitchell Starc did the thing he can't help but do. And Australia did the thing they are forever known for. A warm-up game that had shrunk to 23-overs-a-side still contained plenty of positives for the five-time ODI champions. They were on course to beat the Netherlands until the weather beat them to the punch.
Having spent most of the evening frustrated by the rain in Thiruvananthapuram, it felt like it would almost be cruel to ask Smith to wait any longer. Australia won the toss when play was possible and a man who has an emergency cricket bat in his hotel room just in case he feels like practicing a flick or two at 3am was out there opening the innings.
Smith has been conscious of upping his power game lately, to the point that he seems to have bulked up these last couple of years. The BBL witnessed this shifting of gears first when he scored back-to-back centuries in January and a little bit of that was on show here as well. He launched three sixes and four fours during the course of a half-century where he was scoring at a strike rate of 130.95, all while watching his team-mates falling in pursuit of their own big hits.
Netherlands barely get to play any cricket with the top teams so while this may officially be an unofficial game, to them it was worth so much more. They've broken into a World Cup of just 10 teams and they were only able to do so because they dispatched the once mighty West Indies. Logan van Beek (2 for 35), Bas de Leede (2 for 25) and Roelof van der Merwe (2 for 12) presented the quality with which they were able to get here, picking up six wickets between them.
Australia finished on 166 for 7, with gains for those who will be manning crucial positions in their lower-middle order in the World Cup as well. Alex Carey was promoted to No. 3 and he made 28 off 25. Cameron Green came in at No. 5 and he hit 34 off 26. Starc strode out at No. 6 and helped himself to 24 off 22. Then someone just had to go and give him that shiny new white ball.
Workload management has meant Starc has played just four ODIs in 2023, and just one in the last six months. Australia need him with more overs in his legs. He managed three, getting so much banana swing that there was a moment - after he had clean bowled Wesley Barresi with a worldie that swung in to pitch on off stump then seamed further to clatter into middle stump before the bat even had a chance to come down - when he was like, "huh, so that still happens in one-day cricket? Good to know." Dude quietly got a hat-trick - lbw, bowled and bowled - before he was taken out of the attack.
Australia have an anomalous squad for this World Cup, with only one specialist spinner. They're relying on their big three quicks to get wickets and maybe Mitchell Marsh, who got a 4.2 over work out in on Sunday, to keep the runs down when needed. Glenn Maxwell's form with the ball will come as a welcome boost and whenever Travis Head is fit and ready he'll be able to pitch in a few offbreaks himself.
PS - The game was called off when more rain arrived with Netherlands on 84 for 6.