Outclassed in England, but there are positive signs for Australia’s ODI team

Ronan O'Connell Columnist

By Ronan O'Connell, Ronan O'Connell is a Roar Expert

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    Australia’s cobbled-together ODI line-up may already be 2-0 down in their five-match series in England but they have not been blown away in the manner I expected.

    It always shaped as a near-impossible task for Australia to win this series away from home against the world’s number one ODI team while missing six members of their starting XI.

    A near full-strength Australian team was beaten 4-1 at home by England just a few months ago which made a 5-0 result look likely in this return series.

    A whitewash still appears highly possible given the gulf in talent between the teams but Australian fans can at least be heartened by the manner in which their side has continued to challenge England from positions of weakness. In both matches, Australia have climbed out of deep holes.

    At The Oval last Wednesday their bowlers were tasked with defending a measly 214 against a powerful batting line-up which has little trouble chasing 350. In Cardiff on Saturday, Australia looked absolutely gone at 4-110 chasing 343.

    In either scenario, it would have been easy for Australia to subside to a humiliating defeat. Instead, they maintained their composure, grinded away and managed to make England sweat. This heavy labour enabled Australia to get into positions from where victory was a possibility.

    In the first match, Australia were able to reduce England to 6-163, still needing 52 to win.

    In the second, they were in an even stronger position at 6-293, needing 51 from 29 balls with Shaun Marsh (131no) and Tim Paine (13no) at the crease.

    Shaun Marsh celebrates

    (AFP/Ian Macnicol)

    The wickets of both those batsmen in the space of three balls killed off the chase. But it was quite remarkable that Australia had even been within reach of victory at that point after being 4-110, needing 233 from 29 overs.

    At the Oval, it was inexperienced quicks Billy Stanlake (2-44), Michael Neser (2-46) and Andrew Tye (2-42) who kept the tourists in the match. On the weekend it was veteran batsman Marsh (131) and young bowling all-rounder Ashton Agar (46).

    Agar’s main task in this Australian side is with the ball. But so far, the West Australian left-arm spinner has had no impact as a bowler, taking 0-28 from five overs in the first match followed by 0-52 from nine overs in the second ODI.

    Agar is not a match-winning spinner, he doesn’t boast befuddling variety. Rather his role is to try to keep things tight and create pressure during the middle overs of the innings, and at Cardiff he did that quite well.

    Agar went for just 37 runs from his final eight overs, at 4.6 runs per over, after giving up 15 from his first over when he was curiously asked to bowl just six overs into the innings with the field up and Jonny Bairstow and Jason Roy on fire.

    Jonny Bairstow

    (Photo by MB Media/Getty Images)

    Agar is a long way from proving that he is an international-standard 50-over spinner. But he needs to be given time to develop, having played just six ODIs spread across a period of three years.

    If he is able to find his feet with the ball then he will greatly improve the balance of the Australian ODI line-up. A full strength Australian team could then boast a very potent 8/9/10 tail-end combination of Agar, Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc.

    It is the strength of England’s ODI tail which gives their top seven the confidence and liberty to take on the bowlers. Such freedom has been glaringly absent from Australia’s batting for at least two years now. That is in part due to the drop in batting form and regular absence of bowling all-rounder James Faulkner.

    When Faulkner was making runs at eight, Australia were a much better balanced side and one which batted with a great deal more flair. He provided insurance down the order, freeing up batsmen to play their shots.

    Looking ahead to next year’s World Cup, Australia will hope Agar can replicate this. He has batted very well in difficult circumstances in both matches of this series, making 40 at The Oval after arriving at 5-90, and then cracking 46 on Saturday when Australia were 5-164.

    The one positive of so many key players being absent from the Australian line-up is that the team has nothing to lose and can experiment. Over the next six to seven months they should show faith in Agar.

    If he begins to thrive, the side will be in a better position to compete at the World Cup. If he doesn’t they can fall back to the experienced Nathan Lyon to be their lead spinner at that tournament.

    Of course, it was Agar’s batting partner in Marsh who was more deserving of praise.

    The 34-year-old played a perfectly paced innings which likely would have guided Australia to victory had just one more member of the top six made a good score. Marsh has had a curious ODI career. He has never been a permanent member of the Australian side despite boasting a very good ODI record (2051 runs at 39) and a dominant record at domestic level (3673 runs at 46).

    An accumulator more than a blaster, Marsh has been kept out of the team at various stages by fairly similar batsmen such as Steve Smith, Travis Head, George Bailey and Michael Clarke.

    There’s little doubt that Marsh’s gentle pace of scoring has held him back.

    In the modern era of ODIs, when totals of 330-plus are commonplace, batsmen need to be comfortable scoring at a-run-a-ball or better. With a career ODI strike rate of 79, Marsh struggles to achieve this. Prior to yesterday, he had scored at a strike rate of 100 or better in only two of his previous 25 ODI innings.

    But his ton in Cardiff, scored at a strike rate of 113, was probably the most fluent Marsh has looked in ODIs. He now has a fantastic opportunity to finally nail down his spot.

    With Australia missing their two most capped ODI batsmen – Smith and Warner – for the next nine months, Marsh’s experience will be very appealing to the national selectors.

    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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    The Crowd Says (44)

    • June 18th 2018 @ 8:35am
      Paul said | June 18th 2018 @ 8:35am | ! Report

      Ronan, I’m glad the see you write that Australia has a chance to experiment and so far there’s been some real positives. Completely agree about Agar, if he can get even a wicket a game and keep things down to 5 an over or less, he’ll be a significant contributor.

      Our batting lacks consistency and while Marsh batted really well, he looked average getting out the game before. Ditto with with Finch, only this game he looked ordinary and last game he looked great till he played a stupid shot. It will be interesting see what type of total this side can make if the top 6 all get going.

      If I’m England, I’d be asking why my team aren’t belting a half strength Australian team. Sure they’ve won two games, but there were chances for Australia to win both, but either a lack of experience or England’s batting depth, got them across the line.

      I thought we’d lose 5 nil, but now am not so sure. If Stanlake come back and we can get a score over 300, we might just surprise the Poms

      • June 19th 2018 @ 4:58pm
        Perry Bridge said | June 19th 2018 @ 4:58pm | ! Report

        Would love to see Finch back at the top of the order.

        It is so, so silly to push a guy out of the opening slot – who was peeling off 100s – to insert guys who aren’t doing as well – only for the first guy to be far less effective down the order.

        Why do you fiddle with something that isn’t broken……

        ….and especially when the other opener (Warner) is ‘absent’ for ‘other’ reasons.

        Just goes to show we can’t take these games seriously.

    • Roar Guru

      June 18th 2018 @ 9:22am
      Rellum said | June 18th 2018 @ 9:22am | ! Report

      Marsh has real hitting power. We seem to have this notion if you don’t come out trying to hit 3 boundries an over your are batting slow. He ended up with 131 of 116 didn’t he? That is pretty good. I am sure if he lasted the last few overs his strike rate would have gone even higher. Yes it would be nice to see an opener come out and blast 50 of 25 but we don’t have that. Even Short and Warner don’t play that way. Head is trying but he is not good enough, at least right now to do that, especially in England.

      I know this series is being treated as a experiment by the team, something that happens far to often in Aus cricket hence why people struggle to care about the results. But I would love them to stick to an XI and try and win games. Get the back up guys ready to come in for the world cup. Nesser is a big asset over there. Stanlake is ever fit for two games should be playing.

      • Columnist

        June 18th 2018 @ 1:15pm
        Ronan O'Connell said | June 18th 2018 @ 1:15pm | ! Report

        Who said Shaun Marsh batted slow in this match?

        • June 18th 2018 @ 2:29pm
          Dan in Devon said | June 18th 2018 @ 2:29pm | ! Report

          Marsh’s innings in Cardiff was the exception – his career strike rate is in the 70s. I would like to see him open and be given the role of anchoring the innings. Paine is a liability unless he can transform himself by becoming a pinch hitter of sorts. The option may be for him to open and to attack from the go. His captaincy is redundant – this Australian team is being marshalled by others higher up and off the field.

    • June 18th 2018 @ 9:24am
      Brasstax said | June 18th 2018 @ 9:24am | ! Report

      We have competed well in both games which is a positive thing. Agar could turn into someone like Jadeja for India in ODI cricket, frugal with the ball and able to score a 30 if needed.

      I think the Poms have their own problems with their ODI team. One is their glaring inability to rein in stroke play after losing early wickets and the other being lack of penetration with the ball.

      I think they will have their hands full in the 3 ODIs against India following this series as tthe Indians have been the best chasers for the past several years now and are equally capable of setting 300 plus targets while batting first. Also Kuldeep Yadav and Chahal will fancy their chances against the English batsmen.

      • June 18th 2018 @ 10:37am
        James Butcher said | June 18th 2018 @ 10:37am | ! Report

        I’m not sure about the two weaknesses that you proffer about England really.
        The attacking intent is now set in stone and will certainly lead to the odd losses but has also brought them consistent success, they do have players in Root and Morgan who can change gears and are both good at assessing situations not to mention Buttler who is a very smart cricketer.
        Bowling wise, England are consistently underestimated but they’ve got a pretty balanced attack especially when Woakes and Stokes come back in but that’s not to say that they wouldn’t love a Starc in their team but so would everybody frankly…especially Australia right now.
        It’s worth bearing in mind that since the last WC, Englsnd have three of the top 10 wicket takers in ODIs, Rashid, Woakes and Plunkett.
        Australis aren’t a million miles away from being a really top ODI side IMO, obviously once they have all of their players available it’s going to make a big difference, the only thing really holding them back is the lack of quality spin options and Paine playing ahead of Carey.

    • Roar Rookie

      June 18th 2018 @ 11:00am
      Tom VDS said | June 18th 2018 @ 11:00am | ! Report

      Agar is definitely someone to persist with. ODI cricket these days, if he can snag a wicket or two per game and keep his economy under 6s, that’s extremely good going. Plus he adds much greater batting depth and that clean striking ability is something that England clearly has over us at the moment… He’s the modern cricketer, and needs an extended run to demonstrate his talent..
      Also, it is easy to forget how good a white ball player Shaun Marsh is. It’s very easy to be sceptical of Marsh because he can often get out to soft dismissals that belie his talent, but his record is impressive considering the stop-start nature of his career.

      Will be interesting to see who is the first choice ODI attack when everyone is fit. Hard to leave out 2 of Stanlake, Tye, Hazelwood, Starc, Cummins, Coulter-Nile etc

    • June 18th 2018 @ 11:16am
      Mario Lia said | June 18th 2018 @ 11:16am | ! Report

      If Warner was available I am sure that Finch would be opening with him. Get Finch back to opening, I do not understand why he has been moved from there. Darcy Short should be tried to open with Finch for the rest of the series to see if that combination can work like the Warner Finch combination has worked in the past. At least settle that down. Stoinis should bat down at no 6 where he has been excellent before. The experiment I would like to see is to bat Maxwell at no3 so he can set up his innings, if he bats for more than 30 overs he can score about 150. Alex Carey should also come in and replace Tim paine and Make Finch the Captain.

      • Roar Guru

        June 18th 2018 @ 11:31am
        Ryan H said | June 18th 2018 @ 11:31am | ! Report

        The last sentence is spot on; agree 100%. Finch more than capable of leading the side, and as wonderful as Paine has been for the test side, the batting would benefit so much more with Carey’s hitting ability.

        As the article mentions too, Shaun Marsh appears an important cog in the ODI batting, at least until the big names return; even if he is about to turn 35. Averages a smidgen under 40 from 55 ODI matches, and he’s been a phenomenal domestic OD and T20 player over a long time.

        • Columnist

          June 18th 2018 @ 1:18pm
          Ronan O'Connell said | June 18th 2018 @ 1:18pm | ! Report

          I really don’t think Paine fits in to modern day ODI cricket but it looks extremely likely he will captain Australia at the next World Cup.

          Australia need to find a way to get something out of him with the bat. I still think he’s best played as a pinch hitting opener told to take on the new ball like it’s a T20.

          • June 18th 2018 @ 2:32pm
            Dan in Devon said | June 18th 2018 @ 2:32pm | ! Report

            Just read this – my thoughts precisely.

          • June 19th 2018 @ 5:02pm
            Perry Bridge said | June 19th 2018 @ 5:02pm | ! Report

            Clearly none of us knows anything about this.

            I find it astounding when we look at the selectors decisions and really, seriously, can’t justify what they have done (to screw over A.Finch yet again).

            It really looks like some people are never done any favours and – in a sense – are set up to fail.

            TO me, open with Finch, he should’ve been captain to start with.

            The selectors really seemed to get spooked and seem to have panicked with Paine the ‘golden child’ now.

            • June 19th 2018 @ 6:22pm
              Stephen said | June 19th 2018 @ 6:22pm | ! Report

              Finch has nothing to complain about, he has had a good run and continues to play for aus, khawaja on the other hand can’t even get in the squad despite being the best domestic one day and T20 player over the last few years. I would ideally open with marsh and khawaja because we need strong top order players in the top 3

    • June 18th 2018 @ 12:21pm
      I no said | June 18th 2018 @ 12:21pm | ! Report

      Finch has to open don’t care who with.

      • June 18th 2018 @ 5:56pm
        Broken-hearted Toy said | June 18th 2018 @ 5:56pm | ! Report

        Agree. He’s probaly our most experienced player in the team, no point in stuffing him around in the order.

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