LONDON • Mitchell Starc saw "heaps of positives" after his five-wicket haul helped Australia to a 15-run Cricket World Cup win over West Indies on Thursday, but it could have been a different story.
The left-arm fast bowler, player of the Cup when Australia won the top prize four years ago at home, made a decisive late intervention in a wonderfully fluctuating game illuminated early on by the raw aggression of West Indies' quick bowling at Trent Bridge, Nottingham.
With five overs left, Starc, who had already taken the valuable wickets of Chris Gayle (21) and Andre Russell (15), dismissed captain Jason Holder (51), Carlos Brathwaite (16) and Sheldon Cottrell (1).
"It was probably touch and go there," said the seamer, who finished with 5-46 as he took 77 matches to become the fastest man to 150 wickets in the one-day game. "We know we've got guys that can bowl at the death.
"We were always only a couple of wickets away and they were probably only a few sticks away from taking the game. A fantastic game."
After being asked to bat, Australia had been revived from the perilous position of 79-5 in the 17th over, first by a stand of 68 between Steve Smith and Alex Carey, then by a more substantial alliance Smith (73) forged with the unlikely figure of Nathan Coulter-Nile.
In 18 previous ODI innings, Coulter-Nile had never made more than 34 and was averaging 12. But he had the gumption to hang around and, gradually, gain a degree of fluency.
Smith's wings had been clipped by the lack of top-order support and, booed sporadically in pantomime fashion after his ball-tampering ban, he reached a low-risk half-century from 77 balls.
Their stand of 102 was ended by one of the finest World Cup catches, Cottrell on the boundary to dismiss Smith a contender to rival Englishman Ben Stokes' effort against South Africa.
Coulter-Nile went on to finish with a defiant 92, the highest Cup score for a No. 8 batsman, to help set a competitive total of 288.
Starc said: "He's (Coulter-Nile) such a clean striker of the ball, and he hit some fantastic shots today. Without his 92, it would have been a real battle for us with the ball."
- Australian No. 8 Nathan Coulter-Nile's 92 was way above his ODI average of 12, with a match high of 34.
It was still a close affair in a match dogged by umpiring errors.
The pursuit, led by opener Shai Hope's 68 and which eventually fell short at 273-9, had begun in bizarre fashion when Gayle was given out three times off Starc by Chris Gaffaney, the umpire.
The first two, in the third over, were successfully reviewed by Gayle.
The third, in Starc's next over, was shown to be clipping leg stump and was given out on umpire's call. Yet there was a further twist. Replays showed that Starc's previous ball had been a front-foot no-ball, so Gayle should then have been facing a free hit.
Starc admitted he had been unaware of the mis-step at the time.
"I didn't know I was over there, but someone told me about five minutes ago that I was a fair way over. Got away with that one, fortunately."
THE TIMES, LONDON, REUTERS
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