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News Analysis

Australia's World Cup mojo on full display in bid for triple crown

Afghanistan could pose the toughest challenge yet in spin-friendly St Vincent, although there will be memories of Mumbai for both sides

Andrew McGlashan
Andrew McGlashan
22-Jun-2024
Pat Cummins took a hat trick, Mitchell Starc set a new record, Adam Zampa was again outstanding and David Warner's farewell lap continued with more runs. At nearly every turn against Bangladesh, Australia's World Cup credentials oozed from their performance.
The fact the opposition sat back and barely landed a blow in return aided a comfortable outing for Australia, but on the flip side their well-oiled game barely gave Bangladesh the opportunity to do so. The one blip so far has been an indifferent fielding display against Scotland - in a game that had no consequence for Australia - and that was alleviated when Travis Head and Marcus Stoinis put on a show.
The problems, or concerns, also do not seem insurmountable. Captain Mitchell Marsh remains low on runs - although he was a little unfortunate with a stump-grazing lbw against Bangladesh - but is leading the side impressively in his first major assignment. Glenn Maxwell's form remains in the spotlight, stemming back to the IPL where he averaged 5.77, but even in a very small sample size of six balls in Antigua, there was a glimpse that perhaps he is finding his groove.
"I think tonight I just went in with a really clear mindset to sort of be a little bit more proactive and a bit more trusting I suppose in my foundations and what I do really well," Maxwell said of his brief innings against Bangladesh. "I know I reverse well; I know I play spin well when I'm busy on my feet and moving forward and back and when I'm just looking at gaps in the field and adapting to what comes in front of me, I can get into my innings relatively comfortably.
"Even just thinking back, I feel like I might have even got sucked into a little bit of the pace of play during the IPL where you're sort of set up as a power-hitter. And that's [where] all your sort of focus goes towards and you're thinking more about hitting boundaries every ball instead of still playing your strengths and tonight sort of went back to I suppose what I do really well is start my innings with good cricketing shots, back my ability to manipulate fields and try and stick to that."
Australia's next outing, however, has the potential to be the trickiest yet. Even though Afghanistan were turned over by India, conditions in St Vincent should suit them if the pitch turns anything like it has done so far. Not that Australia are without options in that area - Exhibit One: Zampa - but in Rashid Khan, Noor Ahmed and Mohammad Nabi, Afghanistan have a spin attack to cause problems. If there is uneven bounce, don't ignore the quicks either, with Fazalhaq Farooqi leading the tournament wicket-taking.
"It feels like every ground has its different little idiosyncrasies," Maxwell said. "This [Antigua] is a slow outfield with a howling breeze to a short boundary. Barbados can be fifty-fifty on the wicket, can be slow. As we've seen, St. Vincent is going to be spinny and might be a slightly quicker outfield. So, there's so many different changes.
"It feels like you're going to a completely different part of the world every ground that you go to, and you've got to adapt and change. I think that's just the way our team's gone. It feels like we've been the quickest ones to adapt to the conditions throughout the tournament. I'm sure that's going to probably hold true for the last few games. The team that adapts the quickest will come out victorious."
"We've kind of ticked off everything we have we could possibly do so far," Cummins succinctly put it after the Bangladesh outing, adding it felt like Warner is "always up there" in the run charts at World Cups and that Starc, who is now the leading wicket-taker across both the 50- and 20-over events, has "stood up when we needed [him] to in big moments."
Speaking before the Bangladesh game, Ricky Ponting touched on Australia's tournament mentality. "I think other teams feel that Australia are going to lift for the bigger games, so they try harder and do things differently," he said. "I think India in the [ODI] World Cup final is a great example of that - they got away from what they'd done right the way through, tried too hard and it cost them. Australia know what they need to do - they stay in control of things and turn up ready to play every game."
Australia know how to win World Cups. Afghanistan pose a significant threat, but memories of what happened in Mumbai last year won't be far away for either side. Even in the high-jeopardy world of T20, it will take a very good performance to stop them doing it again.

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo