Any concerns about Steve Smith’s form, fitness and ability to adapt to a new batting role have evaporated over the past three weeks as the former Australian skipper has made a sparkling return to high level cricket.
On Wednesday Australia will take on England in a five-match ODI series, and if I am being brutally honest, we are going to get thrashed.
We could look at it this way – or we could look at this tour as an audition and a place to cement a spot in an XI. We will now run you through a basic starting XI that we think can get the job done.
In our tour games we did not crack the 300 mark, this is simply not good enough as England are a better side than these and we need at very least 300 to compete.
We need to make the most of the powerplay, that is why I say we make one opener act as if it is a T20 to maximise the damage done in the powerplay.
Two names come to mind when you hear T20 – D’Arcy Short and Glenn Maxwell. Personally I would go with Short for my opening spot to start with.
The other opener can stay there and pick the bad ball, he must make the shot count though, that is why I am going to open with Tim Paine.
Paine’s job is to put the bad ball away and get the aggressive opener on strike. Using this tactic we could score up to 70 or 80 from the power-play and really put the opposition on the back foot.
If the aggressive opener goes cheaply then we could promote a bowling all-rounder such as Ashton Agar just to keep some momentum going without playing all our cards early.
In the middle order we have been continually collapsing, our middle order needs to be able to play spin bowling easily as this has been the problem.
At No.3 we need a solid batsman who can play strokes but also build an innings, they must be versatile which is why I have gone with Travis Head for the crucial number three position.
The No.4 position is a bit harder as they will most likely be facing almost only spin bowling which is why I have put perhaps the best player of spin in the squad there: Shaun Marsh. He is not only excellent at playing spin but he can also hit a long ball if needed.
Finally, I have got the most important batsman in the side: Aaron Finch, at number 5 to come in with 10-20 overs left and hit the ball around a bit but also to keep that momentum going into the final ten where we are usually still rebuilding from a previous collapse.
Finch will ensure that we keep going and don’t get bogged down.
For the lower order, I felt it necessary to put in people who can hit a long ball but don’t just throw their wicket away.
At No.6 we have Marcus Stoinis, some may say he should go up the order but he is more valuable in this side down the order as a finisher but he can be promoted to make sure we keep up with the run-rate in a run chase.
As we get to No.7 you start to think, hold on, do we put Maxwell or Agar in the starting XI? That question is entirely dependent on whether you need to bolster the batting or if you are just going for a general all-round side.
In my opinion, you could bat either here but Agar just wins out as he gives more with the ball and England have a quality batting side.
That leaves us with the bowlers, I believe that we need as many pace options as possible. There are already two bowlers guaranteed a spot in this team: Kane Richardson and Andrew Tye, both can bowl at the death and in the middle overs and Richardson can also give us some power-play overs with the new ball.
Four bowlers left, Jhye Richardson and Billy Stanlake both give raw pace and can bowl straight up and Neser can bowl anywhere, Lyon is largely untried in this format but could be worth a shot seeing as England have a few quality lefties in their line-up.
England’s batting line-up is like fighting someone in a suit of armour, you must penetrate it quickly or you might as well pack it in. If we allow them to dominate early then we are done, which is why we need straight up wickets to start a collapse, we all saw what happens when you get rid of their top few early on boxing day.
I have chosen Billy Stanlake as my third bowler, to get straight-up wickets in the power-play. Three bowlers are left and I am stuck between Lyon and Neser, Lyon is a quality spinner and is especially deadly to the lefties but I have to go with Neser because he is a complete all-round package, he can bowl at any point in the match; from the powerplay to the death.
On top of all this, Neser has the ability to bat time and to give the ball a solid tonk.
There you have it, our ODI XI from the squad the selectors have picked. Of course, not all of you will agree with us but that is just the fun of it. Without further ado, here is the starting XI in the batting order (the players in brackets are replacements):
D’Arcy Short (Glenn Maxwell)
Tim Paine (c, wk)
Aaron Finch (vc)
Ashton Agar (Glenn Maxwell)
Michael Neser (Nathan Lyon)
Billy Stanlake (Jhye Richardson)