Nottingham: Nathan Coulter-Nile and Steve Smith underlined why Australia are such a force in the World Cup before Mitchell Starc further reinstated that fact, as the defending champions beat the West Indies by 15 runs here on Thursday.
While Australia recorded their second victory in as many matches, West Indies succumbed to their first loss of the tournament after beating Pakistan in their cup opener.
After Coulter-Nile (92) and Smith (73) bailed Australia out from an early collapse to a competitive 288, Starc grabbed his sixth five-wicket haul to shatter Windies’ fightback by removing Carlos Brathwaite (16) and the dangerous Jason Holder (51; 57 balls, 4×7; 6×1) in the same over.
Windies needed 38 off 30 balls at the start of the 45th over with Holder looking steady to lead his team to victory. But Starc had other ideas, as he sent Holder and Brathwaite back in the hut to haul Australia back in the driver’s seat.
Starc, last World Cup’s Man of the Series, then castled Sheldon Cottrell (1) to complete his superb haul of 5/46 in 10 overs as the defending champions strolled to victory in the end even as Coulter-Nile, who had an off day with the ball, allowed Ashley Nurse (19 not out) to hit four successive boundaries in the final four balls of the match.
Windies, in the end, could manage 273/9 in 50 overs.
Starc, in the process, also became the fastest bowler to reach the 150-wicket mark in ODIs.
Chasing 289 for victory, the West Indies lost veteran Chris Gayle (21) early with Starc trapping him plumb in front.
Evin Lewis (1) could not add much to the tally either and it was once again down to the in-form Shai Hope to stand up to the occasion.
The stumper-batsman did not disappoint with a gritty 68 (105 balls), joining hands with Nicholas Pooran (40, 36 balls) for a 68-run third wicket partnership which formed the bedrock of their run-chase.
Adam Zampa removed Pooran while Shimron Hetmyer (21) was run out as Hope also perished, trying to work Pat Cummins through square leg and chipping the ball to Usman Khawaja at mid-on instead.
Holder tried hard with a crisp 50 but Andre Russell (15) threw his wicket away when the team needed a partnership and after that Starc killed off the contest with brilliant death-over bowling.
Earlier, Coulter-Nile and Smith saved Australia from an early slump after the West Indies fast bowlers ripped through their top-order with a barrage of short-pitched deliveries.
The Aussies, who had eased past Afghanistan in their first match, were reduced to 38/4 inside the first eight overs after being asked to bat as the Windies pacers extracted a lot of bounce and seam movement from the Trent Bridge track initially.
Aaron Finch (6), David Warner (3), Usman Khawaja (13) and Glenn Maxwell (0) all fell cheaply before Smith — returning from a 12-month ban for his involvement in the Cape Town ball-tampering scandal — resurrected the ship with a brilliantly crafted 73 off 103 deliveries.
But it was Coulter-Nile who unleashed a late onslaught with a breathtaking 92 off 60 balls to take Australia past the 250-run mark.
Coulter-Nile, who hit eight fours and four sixes, in fact made the highest score by a number eight batsman at the World Cup. It was also his maiden half-century in his 29th ODI.
Joining Smith with the team reeling at 147/6 in the 31st over, Coulter-Nile added 102 runs with the former skipper before Smith got out to a brilliant catch at the long-leg boundary by Sheldon Cottrell off Oshane Thomas.
Coming out when the Aussies were struggling at 26/2 in the fourth over, Smith underlined his class to hold the innings together. He hit seven boundaries for his 20th ODI fifty and first after his international comeback.
Wicketkeeper batsman Alex Carey chipped in with a 55-ball 45, which was studded with five boundaries, for a 68-run stand for the sixth wicket with Smith to resurrect the Australian innings before Coulter-Nile played the innings of his life.
For the Windies, Carlos Brathwaite was the pick of the bowlers with 3/67 while Oshane Thomas, Sheldon Cottrell and Andre Russell also scalped two wickets apiece.
Brief scores: Australia: 288 all out in 49 overs (Nathan Coulter-Nile 92, Steve Smith 73, Alex Carey 45; Carlos Brathwaite 3/67); West Indies: 273/9 in 50 overs (Shai Hope 68, Nicholas Pooran 40; Mitchell Starc 5/46).