London: The last ball of the 36th over during England’s chase of 286 on June 24 in match 32 of the ongoing World Cup was no ordinary ball. It was a delivery which will remain in the minds of those who consider cricket a religion till eternity.
A well set Ben Stokes was trying his best to get his team out of hot waters and keep them in the hunt against the mighty Aussies when pacer Mitchell Starc reached the top of his bowling mark. What followed as Starc hit his delivery stride and released the ball left Stokes stunned.
A ferocious inswinging yorker from Starc at 145 kmph beat Stokes all ends up and sent the off-stump cart-wheeling. Not only did it bring an end to a brilliant 89-run knock from the stylished tattooed player, but also ended the hopes of the Three Lions to stay in the hunt in the game against the arch-rivals.
Stokes could not have done anything apart from getting out to probably the best ball of the 2019 World Cup. Stokes stood there in disbelief, he was not even able to comprehend what just happened. He dropped his bat on the ground in disappointment, kicked it to express his anger and then made the long walk back to the pavilion amidst cheers from the fans for what was a brilliant effort from the tear-away Australian pacer.
That delivery also sealed a berth for Australia in the World Cup semi-finals as with Stokes ended England’s hopes. For the Aussies, it was about proving the detractors wrong. After all, the last year has been the toughest for the Aussie cricketers thanks to the Sandpaper Gate fiasco and the effort to rebuild the team culture under new coach Justin Langer.
Starc returned with figures of 4/43 in his 8.4 overs and along with Jason Behrendorff, helped Australia become the first team to qualify for the semis, that too at the Home of Cricket.
In the ongoing World Cup, the left-arm tearaway pacer has been the go-to man for Aaron Finch whenever he is in search of wickets and Starc has delivered on almost all the occasions and has won matches for the defending champions. He is to Finch what Jasprit Bumrah is to Virat Kohli. Whenever there’s a need for a wicket, Starc chips in with one.
Before the World Cup, there were doubts raised over his match practice, his form considering how less competitive cricket he had played in buildup to the tournament. Some thought that Starc had lost his pace and swing and was no longer the force he was around the 2015 World Cup when he decimated opposition batting line-ups as though he was taking a walk in the park.
However, he has let his performance do the talking. Such has been his pace and swing that he has been almost unplayable in some of the matches. And his stats also state the same.
With 19 wickets from seven games, Starc is currently the leading wicket-taker in the showpiece event. The destructive pacer has so far bowled 15 yorkers in the tournament and while he has not been able to pick too many wickets with his ferocious yorkers, the fear that he has generated in the minds of the batters has been something which has helped his fellow teammates pick wickets at the other end.
Add to this his 22 wickets in eight matches in the previous edition of the World Cup and that makes it 41 wickets in 15 World Cup games.
The staggering stats only prove that Starc has been the man for Australia when it comes to World Cup and other ICC events. While he was the Player of the Tournament in the 2015 edition, one cannot rule out the possibility that he might win the honours once again if Australia manage to win the title for the sixth time.
Such is Starc’s record that he might be counted as the greatest white-ball bowler there has ever been. If not the greatest, he’s undoubtedly one of the most destructive pacers this generation of batsmen have faced.
By Aakash Kumar