Birmingham: Australia contemplated several different line-ups to take down England but ultimately backed Glenn Maxwell and Marcus Stoinis to turn their campaigns around.
Maxwell was close to being dumped for the knock-out clash at Edgbaston but the world champions gave the misfiring all-rounder another chance to deliver a match-winning hand. That did not eventuate, with Maxwell again teasing with 22 off 23 deliveries, having been bumped to No.7, with Alex Carey promoted to No.5.
Glenn Maxwell leaves the field after his dismissal in the heavy loss to England.Credit:AP
Selection in a match eventually lost by eight wickets – and the overall composition of the squad – will be under scrutiny now the tournament is over.
Matthew Wade was under consideration to play as a specialist batsman but, while he had two hundreds against county sides in recent weeks, it would have been a major risk to have both he and fellow batsman Peter Handscomb make their World Cup debuts in such a key clash.
Handscomb made only four before he was bowled by man-of-the-match Chris Woakes but there are those who think he should have been chosen ahead of Usman Khawaja in the original 15-man party. He was squeezed out by the return of Steve Smith from suspension.
Captain Aaron Finch said several permutations had been considered but ultimately declared underwhelming performances from the team's key men had been to blame for the eight-wicket loss that ended hopes of back-to-back titles.
"You put dozens of teams up, dozens of combinations and that happens every game – you throw enough stuff in the air – but we were really confident to back 'Maxxy' in to the game," he said.
"So it just wasn't to be … and it's not just that, our senior guys, myself, Davey (Warner), we didn't get going, Starcy (Mitchell Starc) didn't get going, Pat Cummins, guys that you expect to stand up in big games, we were just outplayed."
Maxwell's demotion in the order could have worked had Australia not collapsed to 5-118 and instead been in a strong position, as he would have had the freedom to flay the bowling as if it was a Twenty20 match. Instead, he arrived midway through the innings and needed to help rebuild but fell when deceived by a Jofra Archer off-cutter that he spliced to short cover.
The Victorian finished the tournament with a sub-par 177 runs at 22.12, having faced only 118 balls, and did not pass 50. For only the second time in the tournament, he was not given a bowl, and ultimately finished wicketless.
Marcus Stoinis was another who failed to fire at the World Cup.Credit:AP
Stoinis, passed fit to play after a side strain, had a second-ball duck when deceived by an Adil Rashid wrong-un. Endorsed by Shane Warne through the summer, he finished with only 87 runs at 14.5 in seven innings and seven wickets at 34.85.
He proved his fitness twice when Mitch Marsh was put on standby but it may be the latter who now gets a chance to make the allrounder's role his own.
Leg-spinner Adam Zampa managed only four pool-group matches (five wickets at 47.2) and was replaced by Nathan Lyon. It will be debated as to whether Zampa, 27, can be a frontline option come the 2023 World Cup in India.
The Australians had overlooked heavy hitters Chris Lynn and D'Arcy Short for this tournament, after they had failed to consistently deliver last summer. That came amid a change of tactics, where power at the top of the order was replaced by more of a steady build. However, that then meant Maxwell and Stoinis were relied upon to provide late power hitting – something neither did enough of here.
Finch was right in that the big names failed to produce when it counted. He became the first captain in World Cup history to be dismissed for a golden duck in a knock-out game, while Starc (1-70 off nine) conceded 11 boundaries – the most he has in one innings in his career. In saying that, Starc broke Glenn McGrath's record for most wickets (26) in a World Cup.
Smith, as he did in the knock-out matches of the 2015 campaign, produced a fine knock (85 off 119 balls) having been promoted to No.3 in place of the injured Khawaja. The former captain is at his best at No.3, where he averages more than 50, so the selectors have to make a call on whether Smith and Khawaja can play in the same team.
The impressive Alex Carey made 46 off 70 balls but was left with a cut chin that required six stitches from an Archer bouncer that knocked off his helmet. Somehow Carey caught the helmet before it could have knocked his stumps.
"Yeah, it was just one of those reaction things. The buckle clipped and it fell off and it was the best catch of the tournament for me," he said.
"I didn’t really have enough time to be scared once it (the ball) hit me. It was 'catch the lid and play on'. That happens in cricket. Obviously, Jofra has a good bumper and a few little stitches are nothing to worry about."
England surged to victory in 32.1 overs with Jason Roy (85 off 65 balls) even smacking three consecutive sixes down the ground off one over from the part-time leg spin of Smith.
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