Mitchell Starc confident Australia are 'peaking at right time' at World Cup

Baggy Greens face South Africa in Thursday's semi-final having won seven games on spin in India

Australia's Mitchell Starc, second left, has taken 10 wickets during the World Cup in India while spinner Adam Zampa leads the bowling charts with 22. AFP
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Mitchell Starc believes Australia are “peaking at the right time” as they head into Thursday's World Cup semi-final clash with South Africa on the back of a seven-game winning streak.

Preparation for the 50-over competition did not exactly go to plan for the Baggy Greens who lost successive one-day series against the Proteas and India.

Pat Cummins's side then suffered defeats in their opening two games as they lost to tournament hosts India by six wickets before falling to a 134-run battering against South Africa.

But since then, the five-time winners have beaten Sri Lanka, Pakistan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, England, Afghanistan and Bangladesh to finish third in the group-stage table.

“It's been quite busy, the guys who were in Africa as well, I think we counted it's like our 15th flight since we've been in India,” Starc said on the gruelling schedule.

“For the guys who were in Africa as well, it's been a jam-packed 10 or 11 weeks. It's a World Cup, it's what we play for. We seem to be peaking at the right time, which Australia tend to do in tournament play.

“While we didn't start the way we wanted to, we've certainly had good contributions from individuals along the way and we find ourselves in another World Cup semi-final.”

Australia have been the most successful team in the World Cup with title wins in the 1987 (India), 1999 (England), 2003 (South Africa), 2007 (West Indies) and 2015 (Australia and New Zealand) editions.

They were runners-up in the inaugural edition in 1975 and then again in 1996, reached the quarter-finals in 2011 and lost to eventual winners England in the 2019 semi-finals.

Starc, who was part of Australia's 2015 ODI and 2021 T20 World Cup triumphs, said the experienced team will not be overawed by Thursday's occasion at Kolkata's iconic Eden Gardens.

“Whether it's goosebumps or not, it's just another game,” he said. “I've played a lot of one-day cricket … [performing in big matches] is not something that's really spoken about.

“It's a very calm group, this one, and fairly experienced with a couple of younger, less experienced guys gelling in really nicely.”

Starc, 33, and a veteran of 119 ODIs, was the leading bowler in the World Cups of 2015 and 2019 with 22 and 27 wickets, respectively.

He and fellow quick Cummins have 10 wickets each in the tournament so far with teammate and leg-spinner Adam Zampa top of the bowling charts with 22 scalps.

The lack of reverse swing, due to two balls being used in each innings at the World Cup, appears to be one of the factors for Starc's lack of wickets.

“There's a lot of contributing factors,” he said. “The wickets have certainly been two very different wickets, what gets through the day and through the night.

“Speed is not the be-all and end-all over here in India as well. How you go about that tactically, and whether it's variations or what time you bowl through a game, or whether you win or lose a toss [can affect bowlers].”

“I certainly haven't been at the level that I would have liked. But now there's a chance at the pointy end to make the biggest impact.”

Updated: November 13, 2023, 11:43 AM