Australia gained a much needed morale-boosting victory as they destroyed group minnows Afghanistan by 275 runs in Perth to get their World Cup challenge back on track.
In their previous game Australia had been defeated by their southern hemisphere rivals New Zealand by 1 wicket and Afghanistan had achieved their first World Cup victory, just two days earlier, when they defeated Scotland by the same margin. Australia saw this game as a must win game whilst Afghanistan, with their renewed confidence, sensed an upset was possible.
Afghanistan’s decision to bowl first looked to have paid dividends as they dismissed the dangerous Aaron Finch for just four with 14 runs on the board. However, this proved to be false optimism for the associate nation as Australia recovered from this early blow to build a formidable total.
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David Warner (178) and Steve Smith (95) produced a fantastic second-wicket record stand of 260 to put the host nation firmly in control. This partnership threatened to catapult Australia to one of the highest scores in World Cup history.
Warner took just 133 balls to score his runs and hit 19 fours and five sixes in his innings. Smith was slightly more reserved in his run-a-ball innings but still struck nine boundaries.
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Despite the loss of both players Australia were not to be denied a huge score as Glenn Maxwell came to the crease and played one of his trademark innings. He totally destroyed Afghanistan’s hopes of containing the final score below 400 as he hit 88 from just 39 balls with six fours and seven sixes in his wonderful innings.
Boosted by Maxwell Australia preceded to set a World Cup record score as they ended their 50 overs on 417-6.
Many onlookers would have predicted the game to be over at the half-way stage but Australia would not have wanted any complacency to set in as they looked to produce a complete all-round performance.
They did just that as Afghanistan, from the beginning, struggled to make any impression on Australia’s vast total.
Once both of Afghanistan’s openers had been dismissed with only 32 on the board the result was always a formality with the margin of victory the only remaining debate.
Nowroz Mangal, with 33 from 35 balls, threatened to frustrate the Australians but once he departed with the score on 94-5 it was just a matter of time before the predicted result was confirmed.
Afghanistan eventually folded to 142 all out as Australian’s pace bowlers gained some valuable match practice. Pace ace Mitchell Johnson claimed 4-22 whilst opening bowlers Mitchell Starc (2-18), who continued his impressive World Cup, and Josh Hazlewood (2-25) did the majority of the damage.
Michael Clarke was encouragingly able to bowl five overs during the innings and finished with figures of 1-14 but there was still bewilderment around why he didn’t bat in what can only be described as the friendliest of conditions at international level. I am sure he would have benefited from an innings of any description out in the middle.
Australia’s eventual victory by 275 runs set a new record for a victory margin in World Cup history.
This victory, although expected, will now give Australia a huge boost as they look to get their World Cup campaign on course once again.
Australia are now in a strong position to ensure they achieve a top four finish in Pool A and qualify for a quarter-final place, whilst this defeat, although disheartening, will not make or break Afghanistan’s chances but they will need to regroup before their next game against unbeaten New Zealand on Saturday.
Australia’s next game is also a crucial clash against Sri Lanka in Sydney on Sunday as they bid to continue their impressive form.