Trent Bridge, June 6, 2019: Nathan Coulter-Nile prediction that he would face a barrage of short balls from the West Indies was hardly outlandish but the Australian all-rounder’s insistence that he was ready to cope with it ended up looking downright prescient as he set a World Cup record.
After the defending champions began their campaign with an untroubled victory over Afghanistan in Bristol, Coulter-Nile spoke briefly about his role as the team’s first-change bowler, entrusted with following Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins.
The 31-year-old from Western Australia then added with a smile that he thought he could deal better anyway with short-pitched balls than he would if he had to face straight deliveries.
How right he was.
At Trent Bridge, after West Indies had reduced Australia to 79/5, Coulter-Nile dealt effectively with everything, short or full, that the Caribbean quicks hurled at him to score 92 from 60 deliveries, including eight fours and four sixes.
That tally was not only his best one-day total but also the highest by someone batting at number eight at an ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup.
To underscore the value of his contribution, a statistic released during the match said the average score by an Australian number eight since the 2015 World Cup had 16.3.
Yet the start of Coulter-Nile’s innings could hardly have been less auspicious.
A pushed drive for four and a wafted leg-side boundary restored his composure and he brought up his maiden international one-day half-century with a six off Carlos Brathwaite.
He survived a dropped catch on 61 before smiting consecutive sixes off Brathwaite.
Nathan Coulter Nile innings, though, would not have possible had it not been for the tenacity and relentless concentration of Steve Smith against an unremitting barrage of short-pitched bowling from the West Indies pace quartet of Oshane Thomas, Sheldon Cottrell, Brathwaite and Holder.
The West Indians regularly clocked around 140 kph and extracted nasty bounce from the pitch in the early part of the Australian innings.
Smith swayed inside the bouncers but he did suffer a painful blow to his right hand when a hostile delivery from Thomas forced him on to the back foot.
Batsman and bowler glared at each other briefly and Smith took off his glove to examine his forefinger, flexing it several times before deciding he did not need any treatment.
He conceded boundaries off the last two balls and his first four overs cost 20 runs.
Returning for a second spell, two more overs went for a further 18 runs and, after conceding boundaries from the last four balls of the match, he eventually finished with 0/70 from 10 overs.
But more importantly, the Australians had completed a typically determined comeback to win by 15 runs.
Coulter-Nile has troubled by frequent injuries and has also faced stiff competition for a place in the Australian pace unit against Starc, Mitchell Johnson and Josh Hazlewood – with James Faulkner the first choice as all-rounder.
He gave an opportunity to clinch a place in the World Cup squad when Starc and Hazlewood injured during the Australian summer and ultimately selected ahead of the latter, even following his return to fitness.
It may not have been his best day with the ball but Coulter-Nile’s match-winning innings at Trent Bridge will surely have clinched his place for the duration of Australia’s World Cup campaign at least. —- ICC