Mitchell Starc call backfires as Aussies face T20 World Cup elimination after 'brave' gamble

The Aussies are facing a tough match to advance from their Super Eight group after two calls backfired.

The Aussies are facing a must-win clash against India in the T20 Cricket World Cup after two shock calls backfired for Mitch Marsh's men as they went down to Afghanistan in the Super Eight stage. Australia was looking to cement their position in the final four of the World Cup with a win over Afghanistan who had never defeated the Aussie at a World Cup.

Fans were left stunned before the first ball when Australia announced Mitchell Starc would be dropped for Ashton Agar because of the pitch conditions. Starc is Australia's all-time leading wicket taker in T20 World Cups and the move certainly raised eyebrows in the cricket community.

Mitch Marsh tosses the coin and Afghanistan celebrate a World Cup win.
Mitch Marsh's (pictured left) decision to bowl first after winning the toss and leaving out Mitchell Starc from the starting XI has come into question after the loss to Afghanistan at the World Cup. (Images: Twitter/Getty Images)

And Marsh then also stunned fans when he won the toss and elected to bowl first. No team had won batting second at Kingstown's Arnos Vale Ground so far in this year's tournament, but the Aussies felt they could defy the record on a new pitch. This is despite run chases often proving difficult in the second innings when conditions favour the bowlers and the ball grips the pitch.

And immediately it appeared the Aussies were in for a long evening when their fielding let them down on numerous occasions. Afghanistan started brilliantly and didn't lose a wicket until 118 runs were on the scoreboard. While Agar bowled well with 4-17 off four overs, Australia missed Starc's uncanny ability to take wickets early with the white-ball.

Pat Cummins rallied for Australia and took his second hat-trick in two games, which left Afghanistan posting a strong total of 148. "I thought they batted well. But I thought we restricted the boundaries...overall a decent bowling effort, but not our tidiest day in the field," Cummins said in his post-innings interview.

And Australia's run-chase got off to a horror start when Travis Head, Marsh and David Warner all fell in quick succession to leave Australia reeling. The wicket was proving harder to judge the longer play continued and the Aussie batters never really managed to stay at the crease.

Gulbadin Naib celebrates a wicket.
Gulbadin Naib (pictured) was player-of-the-match against Australia at the World Cup.

Glenn Maxwell top scored for Australia with 59 runs off 41 balls, but no other teammate could stay with him. Marsh was Australia's second highest-run scorer on 12. Gulbadin Naib took four wickets for 20 runs to win player-of-the-match with his dismissal of Maxwell turning the innings.

And Australia now face a must-win match against India in two days time if they are going to advance to the semi-final of the T20 World Cup. "I have no words to say...we beat Australia at last," Naib said when handed the player-of-the-match award. is a great moment for me.

While Afghanistan were the better team from the get-go in the Super Eight clash, Australia will face scrutiny over two major decisions. Marsh opted to go against the trend at Kingstown's Arnos Vale Ground and bat second, which proved too difficult.

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When questioned on the decision, Marsh admitted the team did discuss what they would do at the toss. "We did," he said. "A lot of teams have bowled first through this tournament. I don't think it was won or loss at the toss tonight. We had an off night on the field," Marsh said.

Mitchell Starc gets ready to bowl.
Mitchell Starc (pictured) was left out of the Aussie starting XI in the loss to Afghanistan at the T20 World Cup.

And it wasn't the only decision fans questioned. Starc's snub from the starting XI was also curious considering Australia's record so far at the World Cup. While he hasn't been at his best, Starc has taken four wickets in three games. Afghanistan put on the highest first wicket partnership ever against Australia in a T20 match. Starc's absence was certainly a talking point after Australia's loss with many calling out the Aussie leaders for their decision-making ahead of an important game.