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Mitchell Starc Hazlewood’s comments have been rated highly by you

Mitchell Starc has accused the media of blasting Josh Hazlewood “unfairly” after Australia’s win over Scotland ensured rivals England progressed to the Super Eight of the 2024 T20 World Cup.

Hazlewood suggested earlier this week that it would be “in the best interest” of Australia to eliminate England in the group stage, predicting a scenario in which they could “draw out” their game against Scotland. The Australian camp has since played down the comments, insisting that Hazlewood’s joking comments were taken out of context.

With their Super Eight qualification foreordained and no points to go forward, Australia had nothing to play for in St Lucia but to get playing time. But England beat Oman on Thursday to go through Scotland’s net and then beat Namibia convincingly in a rain-hit game on Saturday afternoon, meaning Scotland need a win to qualify.

Australia rested Pat Cummins and Hazlewood and were far from successful 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 from 39 balls with England watching in horror from Antigua.

But Travis Head, Marcus Stoinis and Tim David sent them home with two balls to spare and put to rest any questions about their approach. Mitchell Marsh, their captain, laughed in the post-match presentation when asked how much talk there was about England’s fate: “I think more from the outside than the inside, but we won today and that’s what matters.”

Starc is ‘not a fan’ of early seeding

This situation exposed the shortcomings of the structure of the tournament, as the Super Eight teams are pre-determined by seedings instead of finishing the first round. Australia will progress as ‘B2’ despite winning all four group matches.

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

There is also an asymmetry of knowledge across teams, some teams have benefited from playing last and therefore know exactly what they need to qualify. “I think there’s a question to be asked about seeding. I’m not sure I’m a fan of that.” Starc said, when asked whether the ICC should schedule the final round of matches for each team at the same time to avoid potential integrity issues.

But he reiterated that the comments made by Hazlewood, in direct response to questions about possible scenarios, had nothing to do with them. “I think the throw line was blown unlike you,” he said, referring to the media that attended his postgame press conference.

“You don’t play mother’s cricket and try to worry about other results. We’re here to win games. International cricket. England are on the other side of the scoreboard, so it doesn’t matter that much. The difference in the next three games, so, I think that’s down to you.”

“We have another game here [against India] in the Super Eight, so [it was about] getting used to or looking at the conditions here and there”

Mitchell Starc looks ahead

Brandon McMullen, who top scored for Scotland with 60 off 34 balls, said they never doubted Australia’s intentions. “They will always fight well,” he said. “They’re not going to just roll over and let you win. I’m glad it was a close game today. We showed we can compete at this high level against the best players in the world.”

Starc described Australia’s grip as “very poor” but was hurt that it paled in comparison to the result. “[It was about] we’re trying to make different choices, but we’re still trying to be more competitive with the ball and hitting,” he said. “We definitely dropped the marks on the field… It didn’t feel different. It’s still a World Cup game, he’s still playing for Australia and he’s still trying to take wickets and win games.”

Australia expected spin to play a big role in the final phase of the tournament and bowled 12 overs in total, including four from Ashton Agar on his World Cup debut. “We were in a situation where we had a lot of options on the table,” Starc said. “We got a chance to rest two big boys [Hazlewood and Pat Cummins] and get some playtime from Ash.

“We have another game here [against India] in the Super Eight, so [it was about] getting used to or looking at the conditions here and… having batting time in our middle and some of our spinners obviously getting time in different positions in the bowling innings, it was a good batting. That’s what we wanted and we’re going to the Super Eights. “

Starc also played down concerns about his calf, as he was rested during Australia’s win over Oman. “I had a scan, everything was clear, and I had a few more days for the Namibia game [came] I came back today. It was good to go. It was better for us to do it in the first half of the tournament than when we were busy in the second half.”

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98

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