Starc to media: Hazlewood’s comments ‘blown out of proportion by you lot’

Australia

Mitchell Starc accused the media of blowing “a throwaway line” from Josh Hazlewood “right out of proportion” after Australia’s win over Scotland ensured rivals England progress to the Super Eight of the T20 World Cup 2024.

Hazlewood suggested earlier this week that it would be in Australia’s “best interests” to eliminate England at the group stage, speculating about a scenario where they could “drag out” their game against Scotland. The Australian camp has since played the comments down, insisting Hazlewood joking comment was taken out of context.

With their Super Eight seeding predetermined and no points carried forward, Australia had nothing to play for in St Lucia except gaining playing time. But England hammered Oman on Thursday to overtake Scotland’s net run rate and then beat Namibia convincingly in a rain-shortened game on Saturday afternoon, which meant that Scotland needed to win to qualify.

Australia rested Pat Cummins and Hazlewood and were a long way short of their best in the field, dropping six catches as Scotland set them a target of 181. They started slowly in the chase, showing limited intent, and at one stage needed 87 off 39 balls with England watching on nervously from Antigua.

But Travis Head, Marcus Stoinis and Tim David took them home with two balls to spare and put to bed any questions about their approach to bed. Mitchell Marsh, their captain, laughed at the post-match presentation when he was asked how much England’s fate had been discussed: “I think more externally than internally, but we won today and that’s all that matters.”

Starc ‘not a fan’ of pre-seeding

The situation exposed the shortcoming of the tournament’s structure, with teams’ Super Eight opponents predetermined by seedings rather than their first-round finishing positions. Australia will progress as ‘B2’ despite winning all four group games.

Depending on the result of Afghanistan’s game against West Indies on Monday night, three group winners could be drawn in the same Super Eight pool as a result.

There is also information asymmetry in every group, with some teams advantaged by playing last and therefore knowing exactly what they need to qualify. “I think there’s a question to be asked about pre-seeding. I’m not sure I’m a fan of that.” Starc said, when asked if the ICC should schedule the final round of games within each group simultaneously to avoid potential integrity issues.

But he also insisted that the comments Hazlewood made, directly responding to questions about possible scenarios, had nothing to them. “I think a throwaway line has been blown right out of proportion by you lot,” he said, referring to the media attending his post-match press conference.

“You don’t stuff around with mother cricket and trying to worry about other results. We’re here to win games. It’s international cricket. England now are on the other side of the draw, so it really doesn’t make that much difference for the next three games. So yeah, I think that was blown right out of proportion by you guys.”

“We have another game here [against India] in the Super Eight, so [it was about] getting accustomed to or having a look at conditions here as well”

Mitchell Starc looks ahead

Brandon McMullen, who top-scored for Scotland with 60 off 34 balls, said they had never questioned Australia’s intentions. “They’re always going to put up a good fight,” he said. “They’re never just going to roll over and let you win. I’m glad that it was a close game today. We showed that we can compete at this high level against the best players in the world.”

Starc described Australia’s catching as “terrible” but played down the fact they had nothing riding on the result. “[It was about] trying different options for us, but still trying to be very competitive with ball and with bat,” he said. “We certainly dropped the mark in the field… It didn’t feel different. It’s still a World Cup game, you’re still playing for Australia and you still try to take wickets and win games.”

Australia expect spin to play a major role in the latter stages of this tournament and bowled 12 overs of spin in total, including four from Ashton Agar in his first appearance of the World Cup. “We were in a position where we had plenty of options on the table,” Starc said. “We had a chance to rest the two big boys [Hazlewood and Pat Cummins] and get some gametime into Ash.

“We have another game here [against India] in the Super Eight, so [it was about] getting accustomed to or having a look at conditions here as well… having some batting time into our middle order and some of our spinners obviously getting some time in different situations in the bowling innings, it was a good hit out. That was all we wanted and then we push onto the Super Eights.”

Starc also played down concerns about his calf, having been rested for Australia’s win over Oman. “I had a scan, it was all clear, and I had the extra few days with the Namibia game and [came] back in today. It was all good to go. It was better off doing it in the first half of the tournament than when it gets busy in the second half.”

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98

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