T20 World Cup preview - Australia
For a country that was undoubtedly a world leader in 50 over cricket during the late 90's/early 00’s, it may be a surprise to some that Australia have never managed to win a t20 World Cup. They won four out of five 50 over World Cup tournaments, in a run that started it 1999 and finished in 2015. The furthest they’ve ever gone in a t20 WC is reaching the final in 2010, where they finished runners up to England.
Justin Langer has dodged his way through some turbulent times in recent months and will be Australia’s head coach, with Aaron Finch captaining the side. Finch himself, has missed a fair bit of cricket recently through injury and is battling to be fit for their opening matches. All reports indicate that he’ll be available though.
Jhye Richardson - One of the leading bowlers over the last few seasons in BBL. Seems he has been forgotten about fairly quickly after a poor run of games in t20i’s and IPL earlier this year. Harsh if you ask me, although BBL bowlers can often be overrated, I’m not sure Jhye is one of those. Something that might have worked against him, is that he is another bowler that favours powerplay’s and Australia already have a few of those in their main squad.
Josh Philippe - Again, another standout performer in the last few BBL tournaments, overall only two players have scored more runs than Philippe in the last three seasons of BBL. Another feather in the cap of Philippe would be that he is a strong player of spin, which means he could probably bat anywhere in the top four and not just the opening role he plays for Sydney Sixers. Particularly strong against leg spin/SLA, averaging 35 and striking at nearly 170 in the last three seasons of BBL, which is incredible and would be a big asset to Australia given the lack of left handed middle order options available to them. Made his Australia debut earlier this year and wasn’t exactly successful but I’d have still had him in somewhere in the squad.
Riley Meredith - Perhaps the fastest bowler in Australia, Meredith is capable of reaching high 140's/low 150’s regularly. He is another player that has seemingly been forgotten after failing to live up to his price tag in the IPL. Not specialising in any phase probably hasn’t helped his case either.
Tim David - A big six hitter that can’t be bullied by spin is fairly rare, added to that someone that can bowl part time off spin and you have an exciting t20 package. Tim David lived up to that reputation in the CPL, hitting 20 sixes while striking at nearly 150 on difficult pitches. He has previously played for Singapore but I believe he is eligible to play for Australia and would’ve been a nice option to have in the squad.
I don’t think there will be too many selection debates for Australia. The opening partnership has already been confirmed by Finch, while the five bowling options pick themselves. It seems like Wade will be keeper and will occupy a middle order batting position and Maxwell is obviously one of the first names on the team sheet. This leaves two spots, likely to be contested for by Stoinis, Smith and Marsh, with an outside chance of Inglis featuring. Personally I’d probably go with Stoinis and Inglis, Australia already have an anchor-type player with Warner and Finch isn’t exactly firing on all cylinders at the moment, the need for another anchor in Smith isn’t required. I highly doubt Australia will drop Smith though and I expect him and Stoinis to make up the final spots in the XI.
Mitch Marsh couldn’t have done much more to boost his chances of playing, with impressive tours earlier this year against Windies and Bangladesh. I’m still not sure it will be enough and nor am I convinced a player with such a ropey record against spin over a long period of time can succeed in that position long term. Potential team:
I’ll allude to this further later on but I’m not convinced by the opening partnership of Finch and Warner in t20’s anymore. Both are generally slow starters now and have seen a decline in their overall numbers in the past couple of years. Added to that, Warner is a strong player of spin, I’d be tempted to push Wade up the order as an opener and have Warner at three:
Maxwell and Inglis could be interchangeable depending on the bowling options of the opposition.
Pace bowling trio - Individually they might not have reached the heights they should’ve in t20’s, collectively though they look to complement each other really well. All three of Hazlewood, Starc and Cummins are good pace bowlers and when they play for individual teams, opposition batters can be more cautious against each of them. With all three in the same side, opposition teams will have to take risks against someone and that presents wicket taking opportunities. Wicket taking through powerplay’s/middle overs shouldn’t be a concern with these three, death overs would be a slight worry though.
Bowling in general - Whether it’s taking wickets or limiting boundaries, Australia have most bases covered with the ball and look like one of the best bowling groups in the tournament. Even their sixth and seventh bowling options in Maxwell & Stoinis are handy and will likely be of use at times.
Reliable opening partnership if it fires - I’m very sceptical to include this. However, I thought it was worth adding. If Warner/Finch can reach the levels of previous performances, the Australian middle order will be given some of the best batting platforms you could ask for in t20’s. Which would give the likes of Maxwell freedom to play with intent from ball one, whether or not others in the side would do so is another question.
Boundary hitters - Or lack of, as we know, Smith and Warner aren’t strong boundary hitters and probably never will be. The drop off from Finch in this regard is what will really hurt them, who has gone from 22% in 2018 & 19 to 16% in 2020 & 21. Matthew Wade’s numbers also significantly drop in games where he doesn’t open, although that’s a fairly limited number of games.
Scoring against spin - Other than Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, Australia are the slowest scoring nation against spin in t20i’s since the start of 2019. A couple of their away tours won’t have helped (particularly Bangladesh), it’s not really an excuse though, as they’ve also toured England and New Zealand in this time, two of the more difficult countries to bowl spin in white ball cricket. Due to the nature of pitches and ground sizes.
Batting depth - Agar will be carded to come in at 7 on most scorecards, not that I expect this to happen, having Cummins as a number 7 isn’t ideal either. When you compare this to some other countries options on paper; Jadeja at 7 for India, potentially Dre Russ at 7 for Windies, comparatively Australia look far weaker. I’d be concerned it may cause an already cautious batting line up to become even more cautious if they lose a couple of early wickets.
Death overs bowling - It’s relatively low on my list of concerns with Australia, nevertheless it’s still my biggest issue with the bowling side of things for them. Cummins and Hazlewood don’t bowl much during this phase and aren’t particularly good at it either, while I’m not sure Starc is the feared bowler he once was in white ball cricket at the death. He is still one of the best around when it comes to cleaning up lower order batters but against specialists, I’m not convinced.
Aaron Finch - Has undoubtedly seen a big drop off in performance over the last couple of years. Since the resumption of cricket after Covid, Finch has scored 931 runs in 40 innings at a strike rate of 121, including a terrible BBL campaign. Such a drop off in numbers can’t go unnoticed. In comparison to his stats from January 2018 up until March 2020, where he scored 2587 runs in 79 innings at a strike rate of 155. The drop off is extreme and I expect we’ll see a jump soon, though I don’t think he’ll get close to his previous numbers again. Struggles against leg spin in particular have been a problem during this lean period, being dismissed 13 times at an average of under 14, in this time period. Unsurprisingly for a batter going through a bit of a rut, slow starts have also been an issue.
David Warner - Like his opening partner, has also seen a drop off in numbers. Both are pushing 35, so age could be playing a part. With Warner though, it seems to be mindset as well, referring to limiting dot balls multiple times in interviews when he was still SRH captain. This is highlighted in his boundary percentage of just 14% since the start of 2020. Another similarity he’s had with this recent version of Finch, is that Warner has also been starting slowly, striking at around 100 in his first 10 balls of an innings, in the last year. As such it would be tempt me into moving Warner to three and using Wade to exploit powerplay’s, which should also suit Warner’s strong game against spin and ability to rotate strike rate. However Finch has already confirmed that he and Warner will open for Australia this tournament.
Steve Smith - It feels like t20 sides are just forcing him in at this point. Good at avoiding dismissals against spin but struggles to score quickly, even when the ball is turning in. Whatever Smith has tried to do to improve in this format, it hasn’t really worked consistently over longer periods of time and at 32 it seems unlikely there will be any sudden improvement.
Matthew Wade - Looks set to play a middle order role, if selected, which I’m personally not a huge fan. Wade isn’t brilliant at scoring quickly against spin and also isn’t the biggest six hitter. His clear strength looks to be attacking in powerplay’s. Having someone that does that, especially if pitches are on the slower side can be very valuable.
Glenn Maxwell - Needs to be used in a similar role to that of the one he has played for RCB, with an entry point of around the 7–9 over mark. That should be fairly obvious and not something Australia could possibly mess up, their insistence with playing Smith could potentially harm Maxwell if they aren’t careful. He’s been amazing against spin in the recent IPL, averaging 50 and striking at over 160. Even when you think you’ve got him under control he’ll switch hit you for six. His off spin will be required for Australia, as he is the only option they have to take the ball away from LHB’s, even though he doesn’t get massive turn, pitches should give him some assistance. Given they’re in a group with West Indies and England, this is definitely relevant.
Marcus Stoinis - If we’re picking between Mitch Marsh and Stoinis, then I’m 100% going with Stoin. Despite his relatively underwhelming death overs record, he beats Marsh in just about every other relevant batting stat and is a more reliable option with the ball. Stoinis’ death overs batting is also improving, with his strike rate in this phase going from around 150 in 2018 & 19, to just over 185 since the start of 2020.
Ashton Agar - Has been a very reliable bowler for Australia in recent years. As is the case with a lot of orthodox spinners, they’re more defensive bowlers that will look to contain and Agar does that brilliantly. With less than 11% of his deliveries going for boundaries since the start of 2018. This figures drops to 9.2% in t20I’s during the same time period, which is seriously impressive. However any idea that he’s an ‘all-rounder’ is simply false, with a boundary percentage of under 10%, that doesn’t really have any use in t20’s. Cummins and even Starc should bat above him in most cases.
Pat Cummins - For all the talent he has displayed in other formats, he is yet to really nail a role in t20’s. His return to the IPL has been fairly underwhelming for KKR, taking only 21 wickets in around 80 overs, at an economy of over 8. Bowling a large percentage of his deliveries in powerplay’s, he was economical but lacked a wicket taking threat. Part of this could be due to teams deciding to take minimal risks against him as they don’t see KKR’s domestic pace bowlers as much of a threat. Cummins has shown hitting ability with the bat, hitting a six every 11 balls, although it’s a small-ish sample size. He’d be my quote on quote number 7 for Australia.
Mitchell Starc - What to make of Starc in t20's? It’s difficult to really know, as he plays such a small amount. We know he carries a huge wicket taking threat in any format he plays, equally has the potential to leak runs, as he did in tours for Australia earlier this year. Nevertheless I’d still back a player like Starc to have a hugely positive tournament and his wicket taking at either end of an innings will be massive for Australia.
Adam Zampa - Not sure there’s much debate over his spot, despite Australia having another leg spinner in their squad, Zampa is their guy. Zampa has a similar record against LHB’s & RHB’s and can bowl in powerplay’s if needed, not that I think it will be in this side.
Josh Hazlewood - If a deck offers any assistance to the bowlers, Hazlewood will find it. Will bowl at least two overs in powerplay’s, sometimes three due to his limited ability in other phases. His pace is also underrated and could surprise a few at this tournament.
Mitch Marsh - There’s a decent chance he could be in the XI anyway, if he is, it would be instead of Smith rather than instead of Stoinis for me. Had success batting at three against West Indies and Bangladesh but I’m not convinced it’s sustainable in the long run. His numbers against spin are really poor over a long period of time, it’s difficult to see how he can establish himself in a position where the majority of his deliveries faced will be against spin. In some t20 set ups, with attacking openers, you could argue he’d face a decent amount of deliveries in powerplays but I’m just not sure that will be the case with a opening partnership of Warner & Finch.
Kane Richardson - A decent back up bowler, though I don’t expect him to break into the side at any point. Has a strong record in multiple phases, which is aided by his home venue for his BBL side (Melbourne Renegades) being one of the lower scoring venues.
Josh Inglis - If I were to pick an XI, he’d definitely make it into the side. Whether that’s in place of Smith or Wade it doesn’t really matter, I’d find a way to get him in. An excellent player of spin but is also strong against pace, doesn’t seem to have an obvious weakness in his game. Excelled in the t20 blast earlier this summer, scoring over 500 runs but wasn’t at his best in the Hundred. Despite that, he is a player that can bat in various positions and in my view would be a better middle order option than Wade. However, I don’t see Australia doing that and they’ve seemingly already indicated that Inglis is their back up keeper, so unless they drop one of their ‘big names’ he probably won’t get in.
Mitch Swepson - Another player that looks to be well and truly a back up option. Australia have gone with a double leg spin approach a couple of times in the past, I’m not sure that’s a viable in this tournament given a some of the teams in their group. England and West Indies in particular, can boast multiple players who are extremely strong against spin.
Overall I think Australia are probably the third best side in their group. I prefer the overall quality of England and West Indies. Having said that, Australia still boast when of the best bowling attacks in the tournament, particularly their pace bowling but their spinners are also solid and have been consistent for a while now.
The success they have in this tournament looks largely dependant on their bowling, with a likely batting line up that looks to have plenty of flaws. You certainly can’t completely rule them out but they’ll be up against it in terms of trying to make the semi-finals.
Thanks for reading!