By opting for Joe Burns and Kurtis Patterson against Sri Lanka, the Australian selectors have come good on their promise to reward Shield runs with national selection.
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The second ODI between Australia and Pakistan raised some key talking points.
Did that really happen?
Pakistan won a game! Seriously, it’s been such a long time since they had a victory on Australian soil (12 years) that you it seemed inevitable for there to be a collapse.
But Australia’s low score of 220 in the first innings meant steady batting was enough, and Pakistan’s batsmen held their nerve.
So yes, Pakistan really won.
Will Australia learn to play spin before the first Test in Pune?
On the evidence of last night… no.
Once again some subcontinent spinners pinned down Australia’s batsmen. From 24 overs of spin, three wickets lost for 97 runs says enough.
Steve Smith, Glenn Maxwell and Matthew Wade all perished to the spinners after struggling to score with fluency, and the way that the straight balls from Imad Wasim caused havoc does not suggest that there will be much confidence for the four Tests against Ravindra Jadeja.
Then there’s a fellow called Ravi Ashwin who can bowl a bit too, somewhat better than Shoaib Malik and Mohammad Hafeez.
What is Australia’s batting strategy for this series?
The plan seems to be to rely on David Warner and Smith, go hard early and pick so many ‘all-rounders’ that a good score is guaranteed even if wickets fall. We got away with it in the first ODI, but not twice.
The batting order was thin – Marsh at number four, really?
Then a series of ‘all-rounders’ – assuming that Travis Head is seen as one of these – that meant there were only three specialist batsmen in the line-up, which is surely at least one too few, a point that even Mark Taylor acknowledged in a mildly critical comment.
At least injury has now opened up the inclusion of Peter Handscomb. And given his brilliant Test form and good scoring rate there, one wonders why he wasn’t in the side from the beginning.
What is Australia’s bowling strategy for this series?
At least the answer to this question is easy, but it’s still puzzling – pace, pace and more pace.
Sure, that’s our strength, but last night showed it to be a one-dimensional approach.
As good as Mitch Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins and James Faulkner are, there are some pitches and conditions that mean they’ll be less effective. Pakistan showed the value of spin, along with quicker bowlers who can mix up their pace, but Australia had no one to throw into the fray.
That’s curious indeed, as every Big Bash match highlights the importance of good spin bowling in short form cricket.
Yet at the MCG, Adam Zampa was running the drinks, while the other spinners who are going to India were resting from BBL commitments or from taking nine wickets in club cricket.
Instead of a designated spinner, there was Marsh as a fifth bowler, a few late overs from Head when it was all over, and no sight of the all-rounder from Victoria … which brings us to our last question.
What is Glenn Maxwell’s role in Australian cricket?
I’m writing as a Maxwell fan, not a basher. That said, I’m puzzled.
I thought that in some way Maxwell was viewed as an all-rounder, and not just a batsmen-fielder version.
Yet on Sunday night, when it was a slow wicket that was good for slow bowling, Maxwell was nowhere to be seen.
Given he wasn’t bowled in the opening ODI of the series either, the conclusion must be that Maxwell is seen as a specialist batsmen in the number six role.
Which raises the question – is that how he will be viewed for the India tour?
Lots of comment assumes that he’s there as another backup spin option at number six if Australia play three quicks in the Tests, but on the evidence so far that will be a stretch indeed.
In fact, he’s hardly bowled at all this season.
As the second Victorian spin option heind Jon Holland, Maxwell has bowled a grand total of 19.3 overs & taken 1 for 70 (securing the wicket of South Australia’s number ten batsman Kane Richardson) in the Sheffield shield this season.
Thus, he’s hardly coming to the tour with a good bank of bowling and form behind him.
No, if he’s not bowling much in the shield or ODI cricket it seems that Maxwell is a backup middle-order batsman for the tour.
He has had some good scores at times to justify that role, but is he the next best batsman in Australia?