Glenn Maxwell
Glenn Maxwell

The moment Australia’s title defence was lost

Australia's World Cup disintegration traces back to one fiery net session.

The team that was steamrolled by England by eight wickets in a forgettable semi-final at Edgbaston arrived at Old Trafford for a routine training run on top of the world.

It was July 4 and, at 7-1, they were also on top of the World Cup ladder, having won 15 out of their past 16 ODIs in a sharp turnaround sport has rarely seen.

The Aussies had just smashed semi-finalists England and New Zealand at Lord's, the venue for Sunday's final, and were short odds to dismantle South Africa in the tournament's final group game.

 

Despite David Warner’s efforts, defeat to South Africa indicated of a loss of momentum for Australia.
Despite David Warner’s efforts, defeat to South Africa indicated of a loss of momentum for Australia.

Then, in 30 minutes, everything changed. Steve Smith and Jason Behrendorff clutched at fingers during fielding drills, but that quickly became a side issue.

Shaun Marsh and Glenn Maxwell were rushed to hospital in Manchester for X-rays, having been struck on their right arms by Patrick Cummins and Mitchell Starc respectively.

While Maxwell was cleared, Marsh broke his arm and was sent for surgery the next day.

 

Shaun Marsh was ruled out of the tournament with a broken arm sustained in the nets.
Shaun Marsh was ruled out of the tournament with a broken arm sustained in the nets.

 

A calm team had become rattled. Momentum was lost and, with a mindset that shrewd tournament play would deliver Australia its sixth trophy, that was oh so costly.

Coach Justin Langer promised repeatedly that his team wouldn't get complacent.

"One thing you will not have to worry about from where we have come from over the last 12 months is the Australian cricket team being complacent," Langer said.

"Do not lose one second sleep about it."

But perhaps some restless nights were needed. Because the Aussies were off against South Africa, and the wheels fell off.

"We had a pretty average game. Not enough of us turned up," Langer conceded after the 10-run loss.

Marcus Stoinis suffered left and right side strains, Usman Khawaja ripped a hamstring and Australia dropped to second, forcing them to travel to England's Edgbaston fortress instead of staying at Old Trafford for a date with New Zealand.

Glenn Maxwell failed to deliver on his huge talent in Australia’s middle order.
Glenn Maxwell failed to deliver on his huge talent in Australia’s middle order.

 

Squad changes were made. Peter Handscomb replaced Shaun Marsh, Matthew Wade eventually replaced Khawaja while Mitchell Marsh trained with the squad but never officially made it in due to Stoinis's healing powers.

Glenn Maxwell's short-ball weakness became so infuriating for Langer that the electrifying allrounder was nearly dropped out of the team, and ultimately dropped down the order.

The kings of tournament play appeared to have peaked too early, a fear that was realised early in the semi-final surrender.

Patrick Cummins has taken 3/220 from his past five games.

Aaron Finch raised his bat and helmet after striking a memorable World Cup ton against England at Lord's.

Since that moment Finch has batting figures of 4/11. Stoinis and Maxwell never got going while even Starc tailed off.

When Australia defeated England by 64 runs at Lord's the pressure piled on the home team. Opener Jonny Bairstow blued with Michael Vaughan publicly and a killer instinct was created.

The threat of missing semi-finals again, having failed to qualify since 1992, jolted captain Eoin Morgan's team into action.

Since then they have pummeled India, New Zealand, Australia and they will now face New Zealand again in the final at Lord's.

And it looks like, for the third consecutive time, the World Cup trophy is staying with the hosts.

 

News Corp Australia


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