After two games at the 2016 World Twenty20 in India, Australia still does not look assured in the format – even after a blistering innings against South Africa in a three-match warm-up series.
Adam Zampa’s 3/23 was also noteworthy, but there is still an overarching problem: the Aussies haven’t played to the conditions, and need to sort out a few more batting woes.
Hark back to the opening match of their campaign against New Zealand; granted, the Kiwis batted first and scored 8/142 from their 20 overs. Yet, they had one key difference in their innings that the Australians failed to execute, and that was shot selection.
Australia came out and tried to put every ball 50 rows back at Dharamsala, and while New Zealand holed out to many irrational shots, they were intelligent when they found the gaps and looked to score runs.
Only Khawaja at the top of the order looked a “normal” cricketer, Glenn Maxwell and Mitchell Marsh attempting to send the ball into the hands of the crowd during their 23 ball innings.
The batting order, in simple terms, is wrong, especially the top three or four. Aaron Finch is sitting on the sidelines when David Warner, Khawaja, and Shane Watson are sitting in the top three – all of them capable of opening the innings.
There has been talk of moving Khawaja to three and leaving the dynamo Warner and the experienced T20 man in Watson to open – leaving Finch to wait and bide his time.
Watson is nearing the end of his tether, even in his specialist format. Finch and Warner cast powerful, intimidating body language in the middle, and now the former looks to be fit, the time to utilise him is now.
However, the problem has been long-term. It is the only tournament that Australia has not won, having played just one final, losing to England.
Agar has bowled just one over in the one game has played – granted, he snared some terrific outfield catches that would make any highlights real.
Glaringly obvious is the impact made by the spinners on the dry, turning Indian pitches. The top four bowlers (for most wickets taken in the tournament) are all spinners or left-arm orthodox, with 37 wickets between them.
In contrast, Australia’s spinners – Zampa and Maxwell – have bowled 11 overs between them and taken five wickets; the most disappointing part of Australia’s campaign is the under-usage of Zampa in game one, bowling just one over for three runs.
Rather than take a leaf out of the New Zealand books (playing Mitchell Santner, Nathan McCullum and Ish Sodhi in the opening Super 10 game against India – taking nine of the 10 wickets between them), Australia have too heavily relied on Nathan Coulter-Nile, James Faulkner and the retiring Shane Watson.
The constant short-pitched bowling is a blight in comparison to the other competing sides.
It seems it is the scare tactic of Twenty20, designed to push batsmen into rash shots and bad decisions; instead, the regular “let’s see how many short balls I can bowl this over” type of mentality is negatively impacting the bowling.
Australia’s next match, against Pakistan, is crunch time.
Lose, and they are essentially out of the tournament.
It’s time to step up, shake down and play.