World Cup 2019: Mitchell Starc finds radar to give Australia perfect start

Mitchell Starc marked his return to the Australian one-day side with a wicket off just his third ball.

Mitchell Starc struck with his third ball of the World Cup, removing Mohammad Shahzad.   -  AP

Mitchell Starc, who finished Australia's victorious 2015 World Cup campaign as the joint-highest wicket-taker (22), made the perfect start to the 2019 edition of the tournament by removing Afghanistan's Mohammad Shahzad with only his third ball. It was a sharp inswinging delivery that struck Shahzad on the pads before crashing into the stumps. The dismissal was not too dissimilar to Starc removing Brendon McCullum in the first over of the 2015 World Cup final at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

Swinging the ball back into the right-hander is a sign that Starc is in good rhythm and bowling at his best. It also makes him doubly lethal because with the batsmen wary of the ball tailing in, the outswinger becomes a wicket-taking delivery as well.

Since Mitchell Johnson's retirement after the Trans-Tasman World Cup, Starc has spearheaded Australia's attack in the Test and ODI formats, though he has been beset by a spate of injuries and missed plenty of cricket in recent seasons. The injuries have, however, not impeded Starc from being an out-and-out pace bowler.

Against Afghanistan on Saturday, he consistently bowled at 140kmph and was incisive against both the right and left-hand batsmen. With the pitch at the Bristol County Ground offering assistance and the Afghanistan batsmen content to play out his overs, Starc had a relatively easier return to one-day cricket.

The left-arm pacer from New South Wales hadn't played a lot of one-day cricket leading up to the quadrennial tournament. In fact, his last 50-over match for Australia, before Saturday, was against South Africa last November. He played the whole of the home Test series against India and was rested for the three-match ODI series against the same opposition, along with Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood.

Then, a pectoral injury, picked up during the second Test against Sri Lanka in February, denied him the opportunity to play Australia's preparatory series against India and Pakistan in the sub-continent.

Starc built up steam for the World Cup by playing the warm-up matches against New Zealand in Brisbane and showed a glimpse of his potency by removing Shahzad with just his third ball on his ODI comeback. Starc's second and third spells didn't yield any wicket and he finished with figures of one for 31 in seven overs.