Australia’s Smith and Starc star in rain-hit warm-up game

NEW DELHI: Australian batsman Steve Smith showcased his prowess by scoring a half-century in a rain-affected warm-up match held in Thiruvananthapuram on a Saturday. However, it was the fiery pacer Mitchell Starc who stole the spotlight, claiming a remarkable hat-trick that dismantled the Netherlands‘ top-order batting lineup ahead of the 50-overs World Cup.
The game was marred by delays due to a waterlogged outfield and had to be shortened to 23 overs per side. Despite the unfavorable conditions, Australia, a five-time World Cup champion, managed to post a competitive total of 166-7. Opener Steve Smith contributed significantly with a well-earned 55, while Cameron Green chipped in with 34 runs down the order.
As the Netherlands faced a challenging chase, rain intervened once again with their score at a precarious 84-6 from 14.2 overs. Ultimately, the match had to be called off due to the persistent rain.
The Dutch team, making their fifth appearance in a World Cup and their first since 2011, found themselves in deep trouble as Mitchell Starc exhibited his bowling prowess. Starc, who had recently returned to the starting lineup following a groin injury, made a spectacular impact by dismissing Max O’Dowd and Wesley Barresi with the final two deliveries of the opening over.
In his subsequent over, he castled Bas de Leede’s stumps as well. It was an extraordinary hat-trick, with all three batsmen being dismissed for first-ball ducks, highlighting Starc’s impeccable skill and readiness to perform at the highest level.
Earlier, the match between hosts India and defending World Cup champions England in Guwahati was abandoned without a ball being bowled.
India skipper Rohit Sharma won the toss and opted to bat but rain came down shortly after and prevented play at the Barsapara Cricket Stadium in northeastern India.
With the cut-off time for play set at 7.30 p.m. local time (1400 GMT), match officials waited until almost 6 p.m. before pulling the plug on the contest.
England may well not mind, however, after spending nearly 38 hours travelling from London to Guwahati with lengthy layovers in between.
“We’re a little bit stiff, it was a long journey,” England pacer Mark Wood said on Star Sports shortly after the toss. “But this is the start of the World Cup, so we’re all excited.”
England will get a chance to fine-tune their skills with a clash against Bangladesh on Monday, ahead of their tournament opener on Thursday when Jos Buttler’s side will meet 2019 runners-up New Zealand in Ahmedabad.
“These games are just about building up to the opening game, and we need to be ready for that one,” Wood said.
India take on the Netherlands on Tuesday before heading into the showpiece event, where they are targeting their third title.
(With Reuters inputs)

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