Usman Khawaja backed way towards the leg-stump and attempted a wild swing. Glenn Maxwell closed his eyes and swished. Steve Smith took a nasty blow to the fingers. The Australian top-order was rattled by the pace and the steep bounce of the West Indian fast bowlers. At 147-6, Australia needed a quick answer to the bouncer barrage and it came in the form of Nathan Coulter-Nile. The burly fast bowler launched a severe attack against the West Indian pace battery. So vicious was his attack that by the time he hooked Sheldon Cottrel for six to move into the 80s, he had broken his bat.
Coulter-Nile finished with 92 from 60 balls. It was his highest score in professional cricket and an innings that will be remembered for a long time. After all, Coulter-Nile's career has always been riddled by injuries and frustrations. But it was his latest setback – a back injury in 2016 that forced Coulter-Nile to focus on his batting.
"I was unable to bowl due to the back injury so I started to focus on batting," he told reporters after the match.
Coulter-Nile’s assault started with a streaky boundary off the edge to the third-man, but a couple of balls later he had sent the ball rocketing to the fence with a firm clip off his pads. For the next hour, he peppered the leg-side boundary as the West Indian attack erred in their line.
No longer was Coulter-Nile ducking or waving against the short-ball, he rode the ball and with a minimal back lift squatted the chest-high deliveries to the boundary. By the time Coulter-Nile was finally dismissed, he had scored 11 of his 12 boundaries through the leg-side. Eighty percent of his runs had been manufactured from clips of the pads, pulls, and hooks.
Brought up on the hard and fast WACA tracks, Coulter-Nile has had plenty of practice against the line of attack the West Indies employed. Right from a young age, he had a reputation to strike the ball a long way, but it was his grueling batting sessions with Western Australian opener Liam Davis that had allowed him to fine tune his skills with the willow.
Perhaps it was Coulter-Nile's rapid development in batting that had prompted the Australian selectors to pick him in the 15-man squad. With Alex Carey at No 7 and benign pitches on the card at the World Cup, it was felt that Australia could benefit with a power hitter such as him. At Trent Bridge, he had proved his value.
The Australian selectors also deserve full credit for sticking with Coulter-Nile. He has always been injury prone and even dared to slam the selection panel in December 2018. The last five months have been chaotic for Coulter-Nile — he dropped to knees at the top of his run-up after suffering from vertigo, and he had left India mid-tour in March to be with his wife for the birth of his second child and also had to pull out of the IPL due to another minor niggle. But his place never seemed in doubt. He was wrapped in cotton-wool in April and the medical staff nurtured him perfectly to ensure he was fit for the World Cup.
After a series of back injuries, Coulter-Nile has had to shorten his strides and sacrifice a yard of pace, but he has always continued to persevere. Despite all the lows, he has continued to defy the odds and continue to fight back. Perhaps it was that determination and state of mind that enabled him to play one of Australia's finest resurrecting knocks at the World Cup.
Even though Coulter-Nile couldn't back up his heroics with the ball, he had given Australian the ray of hope. It was that small opening that Coulter-Nile had provided that gave Australia belief.
Six months ago, this team would have caved in and been skittled for 200, but victories in India and Pakistan have instilled belief. They have learned to win the hard way and with Mitchell Starc back at the helm, the Australians were always going to be tough to beat.
Starc mopped up the tail to finish with 5-46 and in the process became the fastest to 150 ODI wickets. Importantly, he had ensured that Coulter-Nile's, once-in-a-lifetime innings would always be cherished. Australia has started the World Cup in scratchy fashion, but are still two from two. Their real test will come against India at the Oval on Sunday, but for now, they can all sit back in the dressing sheds and thank Coulter-Nile for focusing on his batting.