If Jason Behrendorff wants to play in the Ashes, T20s against India are key

Ronan O'Connell Columnist

By , Ronan O'Connell is a Roar Expert

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    Paceman Jason Behrendorff can enhance his Ashes prospects, while veteran keeper Tim Paine has an opportunity to audition for the ODI keeping spot, during Australia’s three-match T20 series in India.

    After being hammered 4-1 in the ODIs, Australia now shift to their weakest format, tackling a team which has long been elite in T20Is.

    The other notable selections in Australia’s squad are veteran all-rounders Dan Christian and Moises Henriques, who are fighting to keep their international careers alive.

    Behrendorff is the most gifted cricketer in the country yet to represent Australia in any format – and he’s a fantastic prospect in all three.

    The 194cm-tall left-armer from Western Australia’s T20 record of 53 wickets at 19, with a frugal economy rate of 7.26, is better than any other Australian quick, bar superstar Mitchell Starc. A threat with the new ball due to his late swing, Behrendorff remains effective in the middle and death overs thanks to his deceptive changes of pace and mastery of the yorker.

    The 27-year-old has started the Australian summer in fine nick with hauls of 3-34 and 1-43 in the domestic one-day competition. While T20 is a vastly different format to Test cricket, standout performances in this series in India could greatly help Behrendorff’s hopes of earning a baggy green over the next six months.

    Australia have an extremely busy summer, with nine Tests in the space of four months – the Ashes followed by a four-Test series in South Africa. With Jackson Bird and James Pattinson injured, Starc and Josh Hazlewood returning from injury, and Pat Cummins’ long history of fitness issues, there may well be some juicy opportunities for other fast bowlers.

    Behrendorff is competing with the likes of Chadd Sayers and Chris Tremain to be the next pace cab off the rank. He owns a brilliant first-class record, with 123 wickets at 23, and is coming off a dominant Sheffield Shield campaign in which he grabbed 37 wickets at 17.

    Paine, meanwhile, shapes as one of the few viable options to take over from struggling keeper Matthew Wade in the ODI team. Since replacing the retired Brad Haddin after Australia’s 2015 World Cup triumph, Wade has averaged just 26 with the bat, which is identical to his poor career average. In his past ten matches, Wade has made just 49 runs at eight, and his glovework is not nearly good enough to cover for his failings with the blade.

    Paine’s last ODI was six years ago but, given there are no standout candidates to replace Wade, the 32-year-old Tasmanian could still make a run at the 2019 World Cup. He is less likely to still be in contention come the 2020 World T20, and the same goes for 34-year-old Christian.

    The Hobart Hurricanes star made his name as a batting all-rounder but it was his bowling which shone in the last Big Bash League, during which he averaged only 14 with the bat, but snared nine wickets at an average of 15.

    It is hard to see how Christian has a significant future in Australia’s Twenty20 side.

    Dan Christian and the Hobart Hurricanes

    Hobart Hurricanes Media

    If New South Welshmen Henriques is to continue to get international opportunities, then this series is crucial. The 30-year-old has flopped during his recent Test and ODI stints, and is yet to make a big impression in his nine T20Is, which have been spread across eight years.

    The same way Australia arrived in India with an ODI squad which looked too weak to challenge the strong Indian line-up, this T20 mob look out of their depth.

    Even at full strength, Australia are an average T20 side. Missing the world’s best T20 paceman, Starc, valuable strike bowler Cummins, elite ball-striker Chris Lynn, and quality all-rounder Mitchell Marsh, it appears as the Aussies are headed for another thrashing.

    Australian T20 squad
    Steve Smith (c), David Warner (vc), Jason Behrendorff, Dan Christian, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Aaron Finch, Travis Head, Moises Henriques, Glenn Maxwell, Tim Paine, Kane Richardson, Adam Zampa.

    Australia’s best XI
    1. David Warner
    2. Aaron Finch
    3. Steve Smith
    4. Travis Head
    5. Glenn Maxwell
    6. Moises Henriques
    7. Tim Paine
    8. Nathan Coulter-Nile
    9. Adam Zampa
    10. Jason Behrendorff
    11. Kane Richardson

    Ronan O
    Ronan O'Connell

    Ronan O'Connell has been a journalist for well over 13 years, including nine at daily newspapers in WA. He now traverses the world as a travel photojournalist, contributing words and photography to more than 30 magazines and newspapers including CNN, BBC, The Toronto Star, The Guardian, The South China Morning Post, The Irish Examiner and The Australian Financial Review. Check out his work and follow him on Twitter @ronanoco

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