David Warner had passed hundred in the 25th over. He breezed past 150 in the 30th. It appeared like he was on cruise control. He might have looked his usual belligerent self when compared to Steven Smith‘s 98-ball 95, but looked downright tame when Glenn Maxwell came out with reverse sweeps, scoops, flicks blazing, reports Cricinfo.com.
Afghanistan were left to run down the highest total in World Cup history – 417 for 6. They were bowled out 142 and lost by 275 runs – the largest margin of defeat in World Cups. Mitchell Johnson’s bouncers were unfriendly reminders to the batsmen that they were playing on one of the fastest pitch in the world. And it was Afghanistan’s first time at the WACA. Mitchell Starc hooped inswinging yorkers onto the base of the stumps and simply grinned. He knew better batsmen than Najibullah Zadran and Dawlat Zadran would have succumbed to that.
If facing up to fast bowlers that topple Full Members was hard enough, the Australian fielding outfit put a big, bright spotlight on the gulf between the two teams. Afghanistan were slow to react to the ball, cut angles better to stop singles, or throw the stumps down direct when a run-out opportunity presented itself; the expected kind of indiscipline from an inexperienced team. But they would rue not utilising the new ball well and a batting line-up that extended to No. 10 made them pay.
The foundation is what captains and coaches talk about most and Warner built Australia one that was immensely sturdy. It might well have been the higher priority when his team was put in, but Afghanistan strayed with the new ball, bowling short and slipping either side of the wicket. Cashing in on their mistakes was the most sensible thing Warner could do.
The innings began sedately enough – 19 off 27 in the seventh over – but as the day wore and the bowlers tired from the Perth heat, Warner’s star shone brighter and brighter. Frequent and appetising short balls allowed him to wear a strike rate more suited to his reputation. Five of his first seven fours came off pulls and none of them lacked for authority. The 10th over from Hamid Hassan brought him three boundaries – one over square leg, one through mid-off and one back over the bowler’s head – and Warner was away.
Afghanistan resorted to spin in the 11th over in the hopes of tripping Australia up, but Smith and Warner would not be lulled by their own momentum. Singles were sought after, especially down the ground and a brief spell of calm – there were only 43 runs between the 13th and 22nd overs – was established. The problem though was Smith was able to work himself into stability and Warner decided he had spent enough time in the middle to start taking liberties. The 10 overs between the 20th and 30th leaked 82 runs capped off by a 23-run over from Dawlat. The next set of 10 cost 96 and the final set bled 118.
Cashing in was also what Maxwell did, although his methods were far flashier. Yet, you’re allowed to play outrageous shots behind the wicket off genuine fast bowlers when you walk in at 274 for 2 in the 38th over.
A wide and low full toss from Shapoor Zadran was reverse flicked to the third man boundary and left his captain Michael Clarke open-mouthed in the dressing room. An almost-yorker was whipped over square leg and the lack of footwork actually helped the shot. If those lengths were dispatched with such disdain, imagine what he would have done to the spinners who bowled in the slot? Afghanistan captain Mohammad Nabi was clattered for a couple of sixes in the third over Maxwell faced and suffered the same fate in the 46th over as well. In spite of such breathtaking strokes, Maxwell still couldn’t break his century duck and was out for 88 off 39 balls.
It is refreshing, though, that whenever Afghanistan sensed trouble the yorker wasn’t too far away. At least the attempt for one. These bowlers haven’t played enough cricket to worry about slower balls of various lengths and varieties. They do have pace and the WACA enables that form of attack as Shapoor, Hamid and Dawlat occasionally discovered. However, Warner, Smith and Maxwel walloping them when they missed their lengths was far more frequent than ball beating bat.
With batsmen looking for a six before a single, Afghanistan eventually worked out the virtues of change of pace. Warner’s innings ended on 178 off a mistimed swipe at a cross-seamed delivery that arrived slower than he expected, Smith went for a club a tad too early as well and holed out at mid-off, and even Maxwell’s histrionics could not best the ball off the back of the hand. The trouble though, as is the case when an inexperienced team faces up to an ODI giant, was that the consistency was lacking.
It was the kind of day that could have brought Shane Watson back in form. But averaging 30.83 with the bat and nine wickets with ball in the last two years contributed to his being dropped from an Australian side for the first time since Mohali 2013. And in came a rejuvenated James Faulkner. The top-order could not have set up the innings any better for him, but he arrived at the crease at a point where Afghanistan were masking the pace of their deliveries well and were sticking to a middle and off stump line with better discipline. They were also desperate to bowl to any other batsman except Maxwell and Faulkner was bowled off a beautiful, inswinging yorker from Hamid for 7.
They kept trying for that length almost all day, but their early indiscipline against a relentless batting line-up was a mistake that could not be put right.