Left-arm seamers the key to Cup glory

BATTING fireworks by a host of players including Chris Gayle, AB de Villiers and Brendon McCullum have confirmed fears that batsman would dominate this World Cup.

Well, almost.

Saturday's thriller at Eden Park that saw Australia go within one wicket of defending 151, showed once again the value of quality left-arm fast bowling.

After Trent Boult had knocked the stuffing out of Australia's dangerous middle order, Mitchell Starc ripped through New Zealand's tail to take his side to the brink of an improbable victory. Nineteen wickets fell on the day, 14 fell to lefties - 11 to Boult and Starc combined.

Both gave vivid demonstrations of how difficult it is to play left-arm swing when delivered at 145kmh or more. The angle of the delivery and late, in-ducking swing give the sense that a wicket could fall with every delivery, which was the case at times.

Starc clean bowled Ross Taylor, Grant Elliott, Adam Milne and Tim Southee, while Boult hit the stumps three times, though he tried to downplay his efforts afterwards by saying he got a couple of "lucky" drag-ons. Truth is, Glenn Maxwell and Mitchell Marsh dragged on because Boult was bowling good, aggressive lines.

Australian skipper Michael Clarke said he thought both teams had been too aggressive and lacked defensive fundamentals against the swinging ball.

Batsmen had become, he said, perhaps too obsessed with the "power" side of the game and not diligent enough when it came to shot selection and defence.

He was even critical of Australia's recent training which he said had not paid enough attention to that part of the game.

Certainly some of the shots that led to dismissals were very poor - Glenn Maxwell and Corey Anderson taking the gold and silver medals in a stacked field. But others, including Mitchell Marsh, Starc himself, Adam Milne, Tim Southee and even Grant Elliott (who looked like he never saw the ball), could be excused. When you're a new batsman facing fast, swinging, wicket-to-wicket bowling, if it's not bowling you, you're probably a leg-before candidate.

In Starc's case, it wasn't so long ago that he was being looked upon as a talent that may go unfulfilled, but he said the hard work had paid off.

"It's something I've worked really hard at for a long time, coming off the IPL last year when I dropped my arm a little bit," he said.

"With white-ball cricket I know my game plan and I'm pretty confident with how I'm going. I feel really at home with the white ball, like I really belong in the white-ball team."



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