World Cup 2019: 5 positive takeaways for Australia from their first warm-up game against England
Australia played England on 25th May in the first of their two Cricket World Cup warm-up matches. Jos Buttler won the toss and opted to field. England decided to play with just 11 players and Australia decided to rest Glenn Maxwell, Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc.
All eyes were on the returning duo of David Warner and Steve Smith and the reception that they would receive from the crowds in England. They were booed when they came in to bat but it was a good outing with the bat for both of them, with Warner scoring 43 and Smith scoring a fine century.
Steve Smith and Nathan Lyon were the standout players for Australia in this match. There were also quite a few other performances that Australia will be pleased with after their 12-run win over a strong England side.
Here are some of the positive takeaways for Australia from the match:
#5 Alex Carey's power-hitting display
Alex Carey is being considered by many experts as the weak-link of the Australian batting line-up. He will be relieved to get some runs under his belt leading into the World Cup 2019. Australia were struggling to get a move on when Carey came out to bat with real positive intent, striking some lusty blows early on in his innings.
He managed to take pressure off Steve Smith at the other end who wasn't finding any support until then. Carey was dealing only in boundaries until he departed after scoring a quickfire 30 runs off 14 balls with Tom Curran taking a brilliant catch off Liam Plunkett's bowling.
Australia have a strong top-order and Alex Carey and Marcus Stoinis will have to play the finshers' role and provide a strong finish to the strong foundation laid by the Australian top-order. Carey's power-hitting cameo will be a positive takeaway for Australia from this match.
#4 Marcus Stoinis' death bowling
Marcus Stoinis did not have a good outing with that bat scoring just 13 runs off 22 balls. But he was fantastic with the ball at the death for the Aussies. England required 24 runs off 18 balls and were looking set to win the match when Stoinis was given the ball in the 48th over. He bowled an amazing over conceding just 3 off it and also ran out Chris Woakes who was having an excellent outing with the bat. It turned out to be the match-changing over for the Australians.
Stoinis' all-round ability will be the key for the Aussies to get that balance in their line-up. He has received quite high praise from former players coming into this World Cup. His performance at the death is a massive boost for the Australians ahead of the World Cup. It has given them an option at the back-end of the innings if Cummins or Starc has an off day.
#3 Jason Behrendorff's bowling in the powerplay
Jason Behrendorff could have possibly managed to earn the third seamer's spot in Australia's first World Cup match after an excellent display of bowling in the powerplay. Behrendorff started off by bowling a maiden over with Jason Roy finding it difficult to play him. He managed to get an edge off his fifth ball but Steve Smith put down an easy chance at slip.
Not much later, he managed to provide the first breakthrough for Australia. He got rid of the dangerous Jonny Bairstow after being hit for consecutive boundaries. He was excellent in his first spell, consistently bowling on a good length and asking questions to the batsmen.
He returned later to remove the set James Vince with Nathan Lyon taking a simple catch at third man. He bowled 8 overs in the match and finished with excellent figures of 2 for 43.
#2 Nathan Lyon's fantastic spell
Many experts and captains have said that spin will play an important role in this World Cup. Nathan Lyon's bowling was a big positive takeaway for Australia in this regard. He was accurate and miserly, bowling with an economy rate of 3.7 and picking up the wicket of Ben Stokes. He could have got a second wicket but Carey missed a stumping chance. He managed to get some purchase off the surface when it became dry and the batsmen were finding it difficult to counter it.
Nathan Lyon would have to play a similar role in the World Cup should Australia decide to play two spinners. Lyon will be tasked with the role of keeping it tight at the other end with Adam Zampa being the strike spinner for Australia. He was excellent against the left-handers and the Aussies might be tempted to play him against oppositions that have a number of left-handers in their squad.
#1 Steve Smith's century
There was a lot of talk about the reception that Steve Smith would receive from the English supporters. There were no surprises as he was greeted with boos and chants of 'cheat' when he came out to bat after Warner was dismissed. He did not let this get into his head and scored a fine century displaying his class.
He found his timing from the very first ball that he faced, driving Plunkett through the covers. He was excellent against the two English spinners and manipulated the field brilliantly and never allowed them to settle. He also put on a display of power-hitting at the death with the highlight of his innings being the shot off Stokes' bowling over deep cover for a maximum. He was dismissed for 116 in the 50th over by Tom Curran.
Steve Smith had played a big role in Australia's World Cup win in 2015 where he scored a fifty in every knockout match. Smith's form in the warm-up matches leading to the World Cup will be a huge boost for the Aussies.