Why Australia must show faith in Adam Zampa

Ronan O'Connell Columnist

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    Leg spinner Adam Zampa yesterday underlined why Australia must show faith in him as he and rookie paceman Jason Behrendorff bowled the tourists to a dominant Twenty20 win in India.

    Behrendorff (4-21) and Zampa (2-19) helped roll India for 118, a total which Australia overhauled with eight wickets in hand thanks to solid knocks by Moises Henriques (62 from 46 balls) and Travis Head (48 from 34).

    Zampa bowled better than he has all year, after being belted by the Indian batsmen during the recent five-match ODI series.

    That series was the worst of the 25-year-old’s international career as he gave up a whopping seven runs per over, while taking four wickets at 47 from three matches. In the ODIs, Zampa offered Australia neither control nor a wicket-taking threat in the middle overs, two things he had consistently provided during his brief career.

    But this is not new territory for a non-Asian spinner in India, where many visiting tweakers have been harshly dealt with in all three formats.

    Fortunately, Zampa seems to be a self-assured cricketer. For a bowler with such confidence, a rough spell such as this can be turned into a positive, allowing them to learn valuable lessons. That’s why it was important that Australia did not discard him after his torrid series.

    Yesterday, they were rewarded for their faith. Zampa avoided the same mistake of bowling far too straight, allowing the Indians to hit him down the ground or over the leg side. Many of his deliveries in the ODIs pitched on leg or middle stump and slid on to the pads of the Indian batsman.

    On a pitch which didn’t offer much assistance to the slow bowlers, Zampa yesterday shifted his line about 15cm wider, landing plenty of deliveries just outside off stump.

    He also pulled his length back a touch, forcing the Indian batsmen to advance down the pitch if they wanted to be able to drive with confidence. Bowling to a strong offside field, Zampa’s approach greatly reduced boundary opportunities.

    At his best, Zampa is a difficult bowler to strike to or over the boundary. That’s why he has been a success in every T20 competition in which he has played, from the Big Bash League to the Indian Premier League and the Caribbean Premier League.

    His career T20 record is outstanding, with 83 wickets at an average of 19 and a fantastic economy rate of 6.99 runs per over. Zampa has been even better in his 12 T20s for Australia, averaging just 15 with an economy rate of 5.92.

    While a Test or ODI team can be elite without having a quality spinner – South Africa managed that for many years – the same is not true in T20s. Spinners dominate the shortest format and no bowler is more valuable than a good wrist spinner.

    In Zampa, Australia have a potentially elite T20 bowler, and a potentially above-average ODI spinner. They haven’t possessed the latter for a long time, and the former ever. If they are to win the next World T20 in 2020, finally breaking their drought at that tournament, Australia will need to boast a world-class short form spinner. Right now, Zampa is clearly the best candidate. He must be nurtured.

    Australia's Adam Zampa bowls

    AAP Image/SNPA, John Cowpland

    As well as Zampa bowled, it was left-arm quick Behrendorff who set up the win.

    Western Australia fans, such as myself, have long been aware of just what an extraordinary talent Behrendorff is. It’s surprising that it has taken him so long to earn his international debut, which came in the first T20 on Saturday.

    What has made WA supporters salivate for years is the 27-year-old’s ability to earn sharp, late swing with the new ball.

    This rare gift was on show yesterday, as Behrendorff scythed through the potent Indian batting line-up. Midway through his third over, he had the remarkable figures of 4-12, having dismissed Indian superstars Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan, as well as impressive newcomer Manish Pandey.

    Bowling at up to 140kmh, Behrendorff not only troubled the Indians with his swing but also with the sharp lift he earns off a length. His upright action makes the most of his 194cm height.

    As I flagged in the lead up to his debut, this series could be crucial for Behrendorff’s Test ambitions.

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

    With James Pattinson ruled out of the Ashes through injury, Behrendorff is suddenly jockeying with the likes of Jackson Bird and Chadd Sayers to be Australia’s number one back-up paceman for the home Test series.

    While it is obviously a vastly different format, Behrendorff’s sublime performance yesterday will have boosted his chances.

    More importantly, for Australia, it enabled them to record their first truly commanding win of what has been a poor limited overs tour.

    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