New Zealand quick Trent Boult believes Australia are now the team to beat at the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup.
Australia showed their trademark fighting spirit with an 86-run victory over Boult’s team at Lord’s, their second consecutive defeat after a previous loss to Pakistan.
The Black Caps were beaten finalists in the 2015 final at Melbourne and Boult thinks the five-time winners are clicking at the right time to have a serious tilt at retaining their title.
“Australia turn up for World Cups,” Boult was quoted by ICC as saying. “They have a good record in them and they’re peaking nicely. They produced the complete performance and they were too good for us.
“There are some quality sides here but it’s all about timing in my opinion and Australia are performing well, there’s only a couple of weeks left and they’re the ones to beat.”
Left-armer Boult was joint leading wicket-taker in the 2015 tournament with 22 wickets, alongside Australian Mitchell Starc.
But this time there is fresh air between Starc at the top of the wicket-takers list on 24 and the second-placed Lockie Ferguson, of New Zealand, with 17.
Starc’s 5/26 were the best figures of the tournament so far and a record third five-wicket haul in a World Cup.
Asked what made Starc so special, Boult joked: “He’s six foot seven, bowls 157kph and swings it both ways!”
He added: “He’s a classy bowler. He was used very nicely with short spells to be aggressive. He’s had a stellar campaign so far.”
Despite the defeat, Boult still enjoyed his own highlight reel moment when he took his second ODI hat-trick, his first in a World Cup, to finish off the Australian innings.
He said: “It would have been nice if it was in the first over but any bowler dreams of getting three wickets in a row. To do it at the ‘Home of Cricket’ in front of a good crowd against Australia was pretty cool.”
All three deliveries of the hat-trick were pin-point yorkers, though Boult admitted his side still let Aaron Finch’s side off the hook.
“It’s a pretty simple game plan,” he added. “I wanted to disturb the woodwork and it was nice to see the stumps light up. It was a bit of entertainment for the crowd.
“To have them 90 for five and let them get over 200 was frustrating. If we had kept them under 200, then it’s a whole different ball game.”
New Zealand have now suffered two successive defeats, against Pakistan and Australia, and face England in their final group match on Wednesday, a match that could yet decide who makes the final four.
But Boult does not believe that any major changes are required.
“We need to win the last one,” he added. “It will be a big one for England and they will be hungry – it’s certainly not panic stations. The bowling plans work well against any side so there won’t be much reinvention.”