Co-hosts and World No.1 side Australia showed why they are being considered the favourites by thrashing traditional rivals England by a 111 runs in the cricket World Cup opener at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) Melbourne Saturday. Opener Aaron Finch’s (135) century and pace bowler Mitchell Marsh’s (5-33) five-wicket haul set up a comprehensive victory for Australia. Chasing a mammoth 343 runs, England were bowled out for 231 in only 41.5 overs at the iconic stadium.
Earlier in the day, Australia hammered their way to 342/9 with Finch guiding the four-time World Champions to the huge total with his sixth One-Day International (ODI) century. He got good support from skipper George Bailey (55) and all-rounder Glenn Maxwell (66).
This is the second highest total at the MCG, with the highest being 344/8 by the ICC World XI against Asia XI in January 2005. England pacer Steven Finn picked up 5/71, with the 2015 World Cup’s first hat-trick coming in the last three deliveries of the Australian innings.
Put in to bat, Australia got off to a good start with David Warner (22) and Finch scoring at a good pace. However, two back-to-back wickets of Warner and Shane Watson (0) off pace bowler Stuart Broad (2/66) brought down the scoring rate. Australia received another jolt when in-form Steven Smith (5) was bowled by medium pacer Chris Woakes (1/65), reducing them for 70/3 in the 11th over.
However, thereon Finch struck a significant 146-run fourth-wicket partnership with Bailey to steady Australia’s ship. Finch hammered 12 boundaries and three sixes in his 128-ball innings. After the duo got out, Maxwell continued the run, smashing 11 boundaries all over the ground in his 40-ball innings. Lower down the order, Marsh and wicketkeeper batsman Brad Haddin chipped in with 23 and 31, respectively.
Finn’s hat-trick at the end brought some smiles across the English faces which were wiped out Australian bowlers, backed by supreme fielding, as the four-time World Champions continued their run of never having lost after scoring 300-plus runs while batting first during the quadrennial event.
A brilliant opening spell by medium pacer Marsh destroyed the England top-order as he continually kept on picking wickets right from the start. So much so that England were tottering at 92/6 by the 22nd over.
Though by now England were more or less out of the race, James Taylor (98 not out) joined hands with Chris Woakes (37) to strike a 92-run seventh-wicket partnership, which helped them reach a 200-plus total.
Taylor batted well for his 98 not out by hitting 11 boundaries and two sixes during his 90-ball innings. He ran out of partners and England’s last wicket fell amidst drama.
Josh Hazlewood appealed when his delivery struck the pads of Taylor. He was given out but video referral made the umpire change his decision. However, during the confusion James Anderson (8) was run out by Maxwell at the other end to hand Australia a handsome victory in two points in Group A. (IANS)