Nathan Coulter-Nile’s extraordinary 92 from 60 balls and Mitchell Starc’s five-wicket haul ushered Australia to a 15-run victory over the West Indies at Trent Bridge.
Ostensibly selected for his seam bowling, Coulter-Nile emphatically delivered with the willow for the highest World Cup score by a number eight batsman or lower as Australia posted 288 all out despite slumping to 38 for four.
It was a total that would ultimately prove beyond the Windies, despite fifties for Shai Hope and Jason Holder, as Starc bowled with pace and venom to take key wickets and finish with five for 46 – including a burst of four for two runs in the space of 11 balls.
Australia were therefore left celebrating a second win from two in the tournament, largely thanks to the unexpected batting prowess of Coulter-Nile, who had a previous best score of 34 from 28 one-day internationals.
He crunched eight fours and four sixes and put on a vital century stand with Steve Smith, who impressively anchored the innings with a defiant 73 from 103 balls.
The pair’s rescue act came shortly after the Windies had induced a top-order collapse, having adopted a similarly aggressive mindset to the one that had blown away Pakistan for 105 in their opener.
After they were asked to bat first, four of Australia’s top five were back in the pavilion before the end of the eighth over amid a barrage of bouncers and pace, while Marcus Stoinis fell limply after brief resistance. At 79 for five Smith was understandably circumspect but he was given a let-off on 26 when Sheldon Cottrell slipped running in to take a catch from long-leg as the former Australia captain and Alex Carey steadied proceedings.
Just as Carey seemed to be building momentum, an airy waft at Andre Russell ended his stay on 45 and seemingly Australia’s hopes of a competitive total as Coulter-Nile walked to the crease.
Smith was rapped on the finger while Coulter-Nile struggled under the short ball on occasions but the partnership started to flourish as Russell limped off in distress, his troublesome left knee apparently flaring up again.
Smith moved sedately to his half-century while Coulter-Nile swiftly followed him off only 41 balls, a milestone he celebrated by pummelling a Carlos Brathwaite full-toss over long-on for six.
Coulter-Nile was dropped on 61 by Shimron Hetmyer in the deep though Smith was not so fortunate after Cottrell’s stunning grab, ending a 102-run stand off only 89 balls. Running along the deep square-leg boundary, Cottrell plucked the ball out of the air before releasing it and completing the catch after he had stepped back in from the rope. Coulter-Nile soldiered on but fell eight runs short of a century after holing out to wide long-off as Australia were all out with six balls unused – although their total was swelled by 27 extras, with 24 wides.
The Windies’ response started with Evin Lewis edging to second slip off Pat Cummins while fellow opener Chris Gayle was reprieved twice by technology after being given out off Starc.
But the self-proclaimed ‘Universe Boss’ was unable to take advantage as umpire Chris Gaffaney was finally vindicated when the 39-year-old was pinned in front by Starc – Hawkeye showing the ball would have clipped leg stump.
Nicholas Pooran contributed a punchy 40 before he was pouched by Aaron Finch at backward point before Hetmyer was left stranded on 21 after a mix-up with Hope, who was proving rather more obstinate.
He moved to his fifth ODI fifty in seven innings but was left distraught when he chipped Cummins to mid-on for 68, bringing the belligerent Russell to the crease in tandem with Holder, who overturned two lbw decisions against him.
Clearly still hampered by his knee, Russell got off the mark with a 103-metre leg-side maximum but was soon dismissed, leaving the Windies’ hopes in the hands of Holder.
The captain was a reassuring presence as he moved to a run-a-ball fifty but once he miscued Starc to short fine-leg for 51, their victory charge petered out and they finished on 273 for nine.