Steve Smith scathing of Aussies after lucky escape
AUSTRALIA dodged a major Champions Trophy bullet after what skipper Steve Smith labelled one of the "worst" bowling performances he has seen at Edgbaston.
A wash-out against New Zealand in the tournament opener secured the Aussies a single point but it could have been worse after four of Smith's six bowlers went for more than 50 runs after the Kiwis won the toss and batted.
The Aussies now can't afford a loss in the remaining two pool games against Bangladesh and England, or risk an early tournament exit.
Australia, batting second, was stumbling at 3/53, chasing a revised target of 235 in 33 overs, when a final downpour halted play.
Mitchell Starc leaked 52 runs off his nine overs.
Earlier Josh Hazlewood was a standout with career best figures of 6/52, but Mitch Starc was wayward in his return to international cricket, Pat Cummins (1/67) was smashed early and John Hastings (2/69) late as the Kiwis piled on 291 in their allotted 46 overs.
It was an effort that didn't impress Smith at all.
"I thought it was probably one of the worst bowling displays that we've put on for a very long time," a flat Smith said post-match.
"We bowled both sides of wicket. We gave them a lot of freebies. And it was pretty ordinary, to be honest with you.
"Let's hope it's rust and let's hope it's gone. Because that was, as I said, it was pretty ordinary. We did not bowl well at all. So that's something we need to look at and improve on for the next game.
"The last probably 10, 15 overs was pretty good, and that's something that I guess we have done pretty well for a very long time.
"But if you start well, you certainly make things a hell of a lot easier on yourselves and today we didn't do that."
Hazlewood, despite his six-wicket haul, agreed with Smith's blunt appraisal, and said a wash-out of the second practice game on Monday didn't help.
He and Starc didn't play in the Indian Premier League, and neither had bowled in competition since the Indian Test series in March.
So Hazlewood could only hope for improvement as he gets through more overs.
"We missed that practice match on Monday to give a few boys a run and in the end that came back to get us," he said.
"You've got to be better in these shorter tournaments from ball one.
"Coming off the break I have had there are probably a few things missing, rhythm being one. I think we'll be better for the run, all the bowlers.
"Starcy hasn't played much as well recently, so I think he will improve from that hit-out."
Smith put his faith in Starc, who left the Indian tour early with a fractured toe and did his Champions Trophy lead-up work, to bounce back from his ordinary first outing.
"He's one of the best bowlers in the world. So you've got to back those guys and he's worked incredibly hard the last couple of weeks to get himself in a position where he could play," Smith said.
"Let's hope today was a bit of rust and we can let it go and keep moving forward."
The Australians left Birmingham straight after the game for the bus trip to London where they will face Bangladesh in a must-win game on Monday at The Oval.