Mitchell Starc keeps writing his story again and again
Mitchell Starc spent months before this ICC Men’s World Cup 2019 studying replays of his stunning form at the previous edition in Australia, desperate to rediscover that inspirational feel that saw him pronounced the Player of the Tournament in 2015.
- Aussie left-armer, player of the tournament in 2015, is hunting more glory again
- He claims key England wickets in 64-run Australia victory over England at Lord’s
Well, all the evidence as his devastating left-arm pace propelled his side towards an emphatic 64-run victory over England in one of the event’s marquee fixtures at Lord’s was that his painstaking video-watching had certainly been well worth all the trouble.
For here again was the Starc who’s building a World Cup legend in the space of just two competitions. Once more, blistering pace, swinging nightmare yorkers, the outpacing of stellar batsmen, cold-blooded death bowling and a vault back to the summit of the wicket-taking table that he topped four years ago too.
Who’s to say now, with 19 wickets already to his name, that he can’t be crowned the stand-out individual of the 2019 World Cup too?
Last year, Starc appeared to have mislaid his old rhythm and confidence and he struggled, by his highest of standards, over the Australian summer. Hence all the poring over happy video memories.
One or two distinguished critics got on his back but, as he revealed after his 4/43 haul: “None of the criticism really mattered to me. It’s the guys in the changing room, the players and staff who you’re playing for - that’s what makes me happiest, when I can contribute and can win in the way we did today.”
So here he was again, back on the biggest stage and ever since his five-wicket performance earned the world champions a win over West Indies earlier in the tournament, Starc has been back to his very best, a deadly weapon both at the birth and death of opponents’ innings.
It may have been Jason Behrendorff who took the main bowling honours for Australia with his 5/44 - and no-one was more delighted for the understudy than Starc - but even the champions’ No.2 leftie seemed to take his cue from his mate’s brilliance.
For here, the formidable skill of Starc’s initial three-over salvo, as he steamed in at speeds up to 149kph (93mph) and took the two key wickets of England’s best player Joe Root and captain Eoin Morgan in the space of eight searing deliveries, effectively strangled England’s chase of Australia’s before it had begun.
Then, once the body started showing flickering signs of life as a hobbling Ben Stokes delivered a defiant, threatening innings of 89, it was the man newly christened ‘FLOAT’ by his mate Nathan Lyon - Fastest Left-Armer Of All-Time - who was called on to put England out of their misery.
Starc did so with the icy nerve of a hired assassin, the yorker that did for Stokes being up there with the very best deliveries served up at this World Cup. Perhaps it really was the best.
Certainly, the beaten all-rounder was so frustrated as he checked his toes were still in-tact that he ended up booting his bat away in disgust at the crease before he trooped off.
Earlier, the home side may have taken a little comfort by seeing Starc twiddling around with his hamstring in some discomfort when batting at the end of the Australian innings but he soon disabused them of the idea that he wouldn’t be operating at full capacity.
Joe Root came to the crease in superb form, with two hundreds and three fifties already under his belt, yet Starc set him up for a fall from the moment he had him driving airily and too late at a ball that surprised the Yorkshireman for its speed.
The next ball, Root seemed far more tentative as he prodded forward and, to complete the three-card trick, he was then completely beaten for pace and inswing by an absolute pearler.
When he subsequently offered a surprise short one to Morgan, who swatted his top-edged pull into the grateful hands of Aaron Finch on the fine leg boundary, there was no argument about who had prevailed in the battle of the captains.
Starc, though, was the first to acknowledge how he loved the help he received from the more unlikely source of Behrendorff, the number 65 who was doing a very decent impression of Starc’s number 56, and who kick-started the Australian assault with the second ball of the whole innings by castling James Vince with his own corker of an inswinging yorker.
It began a dream ‘five-for’ day for the man who has suffered with so many injury problems down the years but no-one was under any illusion as to who the main man had been once more on a wonderful, absorbing day at the home of cricket.
For Starc is now among the top-10 wicket takers in World Cup history with 41 and of all the leading 50 wicket takers he has easily the best strike rate, with a wicket every 18.8 balls, and the best average 13.92 - figures not even Glenn McGrath can match.
And this Starc story is far from written as Australia seek to retain their throne.