SYDNEY: Nerves got the better of Australia’s batting lineup in their dramatic World Cup loss to New Zealand at the weekend and they may have been overawed by the occasion, Australian paceman Mitchell Johnson said.
New Zealand skittled Australia’s batsmen for 151 runs in 32.2 overs before holding on for a nerve-jangling one-wicket win at a packed Eden Park on Saturday.
Players and pundits have struggled to explain Australia’s batting flop, with some blaming the team’s lack of match practice in the two weeks since their opener against England.
Captain Michael Clarke suggested the team had not trained hard enough on dealing with swing bowling after New Zealand’s seamers cut a swathe through their innings.
But Johnson said there was no lack of preparation.
“I think we trained really well, to be honest,” Johnson told Sydney radio station 2UE. “I just think we were probably a little bit nervous through that middle period.
“We trained and we knew what to expect. We knew the ball was going to swing there.
“We knew what to expect, we just didn’t play our game when we got out there in the middle. I think the moment probably got a bit big for us.”
Though Mitchell Starc took a brilliant 6-28 to give Australia an unlikely sniff of victory, fellow left-armer Johnson was torched by ‘Black Caps’ skipper Brendon McCullum early and finished wicketless for 68 runs from just six overs.
“He’s a great player,” two-time ICC cricketer of the year Johnson said of McCullum. “He took me apart, I haven’t been belted like that for a long while.”
The loss to New Zealand is unlikely to affect Australia’s hopes of making the knockout rounds, though it may eventually cost the team top spot in Pool A, meaning a potentially trickier quarter-final opponent.
Non-test playing side Afghanistan can expect to feel the full brunt of Johnson and Australia’s frustrations when the teams meet in Perth on Wednesday on the WACA’s famously fast and bouncy wicket.
The WACA has been one of Johnson’s happiest hunting grounds, a venue where his left-arm deliveries collude with a dependable afternoon sea-breeze to swing into batsmen.
Starc will team up with Johnson again but third seamer Pat Cummins is likely to be rested after sustaining a side strain against New Zealand.
Fast-bowling all-rounder James Faulkner may return from a side strain of his own against Afghanistan for his first match at the World Cup. Reuters