Mitchell Starc has fired a warning shot to Australia’s World Cup rivals that Aaron Finch’s men are ready to peak at just the right time.
Starc took his World Cup tally to 24 with a five-wicket haul in Australia’s 86-run thrashing of New Zealand at Lord’s.
The 29-year-old ripped through the flimsy Black Caps’ batting order, with New Zealand skittled for 157.
Trent Boult bagged a hat-trick for New Zealand but that was eclipsed by Usman Khawaja’s match-winning 88 and Starc’s fine 5-26. At the death of Australia’s innings, Boult bowled Khawaja and then Starc and, with the hat-trick on the line, he trapped Jason Behrendorff leg before, in a fine example of death bowling.
Australia top the round-robin standings with only South Africa to play in the group stage, leaving Starc expecting better things still to come from the defending champions.
“I think our chances of winning the tournament are as good as any other team now,” said Starc.
“We’ve always talked about peaking at the back-end of the tournament.
“We’ve shown glimpses of what we’re capable of but we’ve still got room to improve and that’s exciting.
“I don’t think we’ve quite had the perfect game, if you like, as a bowling group.
“But we’re finding ways to scrap and restrict teams – and we keep improving every game.
“We’re finding ways to win. A big part of that is our calmness.
“Aaron Finch has been fantastic as a captain, changing up who’s bowling when and where. We’ve planned and executed really well and we’re improving every game. To scrap to a good score on a warm wicket was fantastic and gave us a really strong target to defend.
“The turning point was that India defeat, where we had a good chat as bowlers and batters – and we just keep improving now.”
Starc is just three wickets shy of breaking Glenn McGrath’s Australian World Cup career record, but he insisted that will only gain significance if Finch’s side win the competition.
Asked what it would mean to him to pass McGrath’s World Cup tally, Starc said: “Not much if we don’t win the World Cup.
“I’m just stoked to be playing a part in this group and to get to contribute.
“I’m really proud of the whole bowling group.
“We’re not only talking but we’re also showing what we’re capable of.”
New Zealand remain on course for the semi-finals despite this hefty reverse that left captain Kane Williamson insisting the Black Caps just have to stay the course.
Asked what went wrong at Lord’s, Williamson replied: “That’s a fairly broad question, we could be here a while!
“It was a very good start with the ball after losing the toss.
“But Australia outplayed us on that surface. We did have them at 92-5 which was a really good start. They exploited the conditions beautifully well.”