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Australia get the two points they wanted

Wisden India logo Wisden India 14-03-2015 R Kaushik
Mitchell Starc finished with four wickets and Pat Cummins scalped three to set up Australia's win over Scotland. © Getty Images © Provided by Wisden Mitchell Starc finished with four wickets and Pat Cummins scalped three to set up Australia's win over Scotland. © Getty Images

Australia didn’t necessarily get everything they wanted out of this game, but they got the one thing they desperately needed more than anything else – the two points that helped them finish second in Pool A, behind co-hosts New Zealand.

The only way Australia could have not pocketed full points at the Bellerive Oval on a murky Saturday (March 14) was if the weather had intervened. Though it was ominously cloudy for the duration of the game and there were two interruptions, the rains relented long enough for Michael Clarke’s men to race to a seven-wicket victory in a non-contest that lasted only 41 overs in all.

The result meant Australia avoided South Africa in the third quarterfinal in Adelaide on March 20. They would instead take on the third-placed team in Pool B, which could be either of Pakistan, Ireland or West Indies, depending on the results on the final day of league play on Sunday. The result also ensured that should they get to that stage, Australia will not have to make the trip to Auckland for the semifinal, but play in Sydney instead.

Through Preston Mommsen, Scotland had promised to put up a show befitting the stage. Mommsen had said it was a huge honour for his team to play one of the co-hosts in their own backyard, but his side batted as if it was overawed by the occasion as it caved in without a fight.

In a strange batting display of four or out, Scotland were blasted out for just 130 in 25.4 overs despite Australia not going all out. In all, there were 20 fours; there were five ducks, too, as the Scots rattled to a tournament-high 12 ducks. It was a bizarre innings, interrupted for 30 minutes by a drizzle, but still over long before you could even start to make sense of what was unfolding.

Australia took the opportunity to rejig their batting order so that Clarke and Shane Watson, among others, would get some batting practice in a match situation. Clarke opened the batting with Aaron Finch, who made a ten-ball 20 before throwing his hand away, while Watson came in at No. 3 as Australia tried ticking all the boxes leading into the knockouts.

Clarke and Watson struck a fine balance between batting time and scoring quickly with one eye on the weather during a second-wicket stand of 58. The skipper looked characteristically fluent while driving even as Watson muscled the ball against Scotland’s hapless bowlers.

The pair was dismissed within three balls of each other, Clarke brilliantly caught at deep backward square by Michael Leask, after which there was a prolonged rain interruption that triggered nerves and tension in the Australian camp. When the players came back out after 92 minutes of fretting and fuming with the score 92 for 3, David Warner smashed the first ball from Iain Wardlaw for six and James Faulkner started off in fifth gear, Australia needing just 12 deliveries to knock off the remaining runs on their way to 133 for 3 in 15.2 overs.

A fair-sized crowd had turned up to watch their heroes, even though two of three hometown boys – George Bailey and Xavier Doherty – warmed the bench. It was to be Hobart’s only look at the Australians in this World Cup; unfortunately for them, Scotland weren’t up for the battle, their desperate hurry to get on with things against a quality attack despite the regular fall of wickets hard to comprehend.

Perhaps, Scotland didn’t want to go into their shells against Mitchell Starc, who returned to the top of the wicket-taking table with his 4 for 14, Mitchell Johnson and Pat Cummins, but they took their adventurism too far against an attack that needed just that little prod to get all fired up. Calum MacLeod lit the spark as he lay into Cummins with four fours in the pacer’s first two overs, all of them through or over point and enough for Starc and Johnson to see red.

Starc duly drew first blood in his second over, consigning Kyle Coetzer to his second consecutive duck. That brought Matt Machan out to join MacLeod, and then followed a very brief but very entertaining passage as both MacLeod and Machan played handsome strokes, mainly square on either side. Australia knew it was always a one-ball game, and Starc provided that ball, even if it was hardly a wicket-taking one – short and outside off. In trying to keep the cut down, all MacLeod managed was to put up a straightforward catch to point.

Like the batsmen preceding him, Preston Mommsen too was guilty of playing his strokes too early in his innings. © Getty Images © Provided by Wisden Like the batsmen preceding him, Preston Mommsen too was guilty of playing his strokes too early in his innings. © Getty Images

Mommsen fell three deliveries later, caught on the pull as Watson got amongst the wickets. Like the batsmen preceding him, Mommsen too was guilty of playing his strokes too early in his innings. The top-edged pull from outside off looped towards square-leg, giving Starc enough time to circle around from short fine to gobble it up comfortably.

Mommsen and Freddie Coleman had showcased the best of Scottish batsmanship in the previous game against Sri Lanka when they both made attractive half-centuries. This time, Coleman again emulated his skipper by becoming the third man to be dismissed for duck, pushing tentatively at Johnson off the back foot and putting Clarke in business at second slip. Six deliveries later, Richie Berrington picked out Warner at cover off Glenn Maxwell’s first ball, and Scotland had lost half their side with just 51 on the board.

Through all this, Machan soldiered on. If Scotland’s game plan was based around aggression, no matter what, then Machan executed that plan to perfection. Slightly two-eyed in his stance and with a somewhat ungainly shuffle, he was nevertheless right behind every ball, sizing up the length quickly to either drive on the up or over the top crisply. Successive boundaries off Johnson – a pull and a slap over point – suggested that he was at home against top pace even as Matthew Cross at the other end took to the offspin of Maxwell.

Given the belligerence of the Scottish batsmen, a wicket always appeared around the corner. Machan perished in the first over after drinks, top-edging to long-leg; it was double delight for Cummins as Cross went in the same over to a lovely delivery that spat off a length and moved away to catch the outside edge.

Davey and Cross threw their bats around in adding 35 for the ninth wicket, when the showers intensified enough for play to be stopped for half an hour. Upon resumption, Starc needed just four deliveries to knock the last two wickets over. As simple as that.

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