By Niall Anderson at Lord's

As Alex Carey – Australia's last recognised batsman - walked out to the middle at Lord's, the Black Caps had Australia right where they wanted them.

Reduced to 92-5, Australia were in serious strife, and the Black Caps had a golden opportunity to strike.

One more quick wicket, and No 8 Pat Cummins would be heading into an extremely unfamiliar and uncomfortable position, and Australia's innings likely wouldn't have had too much wag left in the tail.

Advertisement

Such a high-leverage situation surely demands your best wicket-taking bowlers, but instead, the Black Caps took a more conservative approach.

While Lockie Ferguson was given a brief crack, without success, Carey and Usman Khawaja had the fortune of being able to bat for nearly 18 overs without having to face Trent Boult, with the Black Caps' senior strike weapon not returning until the 39th over, after 90 runs had already been added by the Australian duo.

You'd suspect Carey and Khawaja were much happier facing 42 balls from Kane Williamson, 24 from Colin de Grandhomme, 21 from Jimmy Neesham and 12 from Mitchell Santner, with the Black Caps even deciding not to utilise their most attacking spinning option, Ish Sodhi.

The end result was a partnership as long as the previous five put together, as Carey and Khawaja added 107 for the sixth wicket, giving Australia a competitive total – 243-9 – to bowl at, on their way to an 86-run victory.

Former Australian captain Michael Clarke was critical of Williamson's tactics on commentary.

"They missed a real opportunity to put their foot on Australia's throat. [Boult] should be bowling with Australia at 92-5. New Zealand missed an opportunity to bowl them out for 160-170.

"In that position, I don't care if you bowl out your best bowlers by over 35. So be it."

While Williamson's bowling options were largely restrictive – and Williamson himself did eventually get the breakthrough - just one more wicket could have changed the game, and significantly increased New Zealand's chances of victory.

Advertisement

Khawaja – dropped second ball by Martin Guptill in another potential game-changing blunder – and Carey held out until the 43rd over, giving Cummins the ideal situation to come in and add a quickfire unbeaten 23.

New Zealand's Trent Boult appeals for lbw on Australia's Jason Behrendorff, which was given during the Cricket World Cup match between New Zealand and Australia. Photo / AP
New Zealand's Trent Boult appeals for lbw on Australia's Jason Behrendorff, which was given during the Cricket World Cup match between New Zealand and Australia. Photo / AP

However, as Boult later showed with his historic hat-trick – albeit against a tail trying to hit out – there wasn't much to be feared in the Australian tail order, and not exposing them earlier in the innings turned out to be decisive.

Williamson defended his decision post-game, explaining why he opted for the slower bowlers over bringing back Boult earlier.

"It was turning a lot and offering a little bit with the seamers, and as the ball got softer, I felt that the spin … it would have been a lot more difficult. But the match-ups didn't really fall our way with both our spinners turning the ball in to two left-hand batters. Hence why I bowled a few more overs again."

However, Williamson recognised that the sixth-wicket partnership was the turning point of the match.

"If we're being critical, we would have liked to have obviously taken that sixth wicket, which perhaps may have restricted them to below 200, and I'm sure it would have been a really tough battle.

"Maybe that sixth wicket today and things potentially could have been quite different.

"I suppose we were one wicket away."

Balls bowled during the partnership

Kane Williamson – 42
Colin de Grandhomme – 24
Jimmy Neesham – 21
Lockie Ferguson – 18
Mitchell Santner – 12
Trent Boult - 12

The Alternative Commentary Collective are podcasting their way through the World Cup. Known for their unconventional sports analysis and off-kilter banter, the ACC have come to ask the tough questions. Here's the latest episode of 'The Agenda':
WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT