Beau Casson, Cameron White, Bryce McGain, Steve Smith; Australia’s search for a frontline Test wrist spinner since Shane Warne’s retirement in 2007 hasn’t reaped the rewards it had hoped.
Australia defeated England by seven wickets with 33 balls to spare in the final match of the summer on Australian soil, and in the process secured a spot in the tri-series final.
An excellent team effort with the ball restricted England to just 137, a total that never felt like enough, and some fireworks from Chris Lynn, Glenn Maxwell, D’Arcy Short and, finally, Aaron Finch made light work of it. England’s bowlers looked short of a gallop, but there wasn’t a lot they could do.
From the moment David Warner caught the in-form Dawid Malan short with a brilliant throw from mid-on, and probably before that, too, it was Australia all the way.
The way they’re playing is such a far cry from the squad that hobbled their way through the ODI series.
The bowling attack is perfectly balanced, from the raw pace of Billy Stanlake to the slower balls of Andrew Tye and Marcus Stoinis to the wily spin of Ashton Agar, all spearheaded by Kane Richardson, tonight’s player of the match.
Together, they cut off England’s head in the opening overs, suffocated them in the middle, and prevented a blowout late when Jos Buttler, Sam Billings and David Willey were swinging for the fences. And the fielding, led by Warner, was nearly perfect, too.
Then, buoyed by a deep batting line-up and with a small total to chase, the top order ran amok. Lynn was at his destructive best, Maxwell continued his stirring form, and to wrap things up nicely, Aaron Finch came out and bludgeoned two sixes and two fours for a five-ball 20, including the winning runs.
David Willey tried hard, and was particularly dangerous to the left-handers with some away swing, but 39 runs in two overs from the spin twins, Adil Rashid and Liam Dawson, effectively ensured their would be no late blip on the radar.
England sorely missed the composure of Eoin Morgan in the middle overs, with Buttler and Billings tied down for too long with dot after dot.
Liam Plunkett’s wily changes of pace would also have been handy, though he couldn’t have done much on a night like this.
But the rested Joe Root has proved the biggest hole in the side. His absence, particularly after a dominant ODI series, has drastically thinned out England’s batting dependability, with Roy, Hales, Buttler, Billings and Willey all very much hit-and-miss.
Without him and Morgan, England’s batting, remarkable for a side with all-rounders down to nine, looked a touch thin.
For Australia, there’s only one concern, but it’s a big one; David Warner’s form with the bat. His captaincy and brilliant run-out showed what he brings to the table in the field, but he’s there to make runs, and his two runs tonight was his third straight score of below 10 this series.
It’s a serious problem for the brains trust, not least because an upcoming tour of South Africa is a bad time for a batsman of the calibre of Warner to be out of nick.
But also, in the lead up to the 2020 T20 World Cup, Warner is, for just about the first time in his career, not an automatic selection in the side.