Australia’s loss in yesterday’s one-off Twenty20 against England completed their disastrous limited-overs tour of the UK, during which they lost six straight matches.
Here are three things I learned from the tour:
Jos Buttler is about to take a stranglehold on world cricket
With the extreme talent Buttler possesses, it long confused me why he wasn’t given an extended run as a batsman in England’s Test team ahead of the revolving door of limited cricketers they trialled in recent years. While Buttler is only three innings deep in his Test comeback, the 27-year-old was outstanding in England’s 1-1 drawn Test series against Pakistan.
He showed impressive temperament to go with his limitless ability as he made scores of 67 and 80no.
Buttler was selected for that Test series on the back of hot white ball form – he had just dominated the Indian Premier League and had become one of England’s best ODI batsmen. He fronted up for the limited overs matches against Australia in perhaps career-best form and proceeded to take the Aussies apart.
In the ODIs he made 275 runs while being dismissed just twice, all at a blazing strike rate of 112, including an extraordinary 110no to single-handedly deny Australia victory in the fifth match. Buttler returned to boss Australia with 61 from just 30 balls in yesterdays’ T20I.
He is now, to my mind, the second-most valuable ODI cricketer in the world after Indian megastar Virat Kohli. Buttler is not yet as accomplished in T20Is but has all the tools to dominate that format, too.
I’m most fascinated to watch how he progresses in Tests. If he can adapt to the longest format Buttler could become a nightmare for Australia to contend with over the next few Ashes series.
England are favourites but no certainties to win the 2019 World Cup
England deserve to be the favourites for the upcoming World Cup. They are, after all, the number one ranked ODI team and will be playing at home on the ultra-flat pitches which so heavily favour their ballistic batting line-up.
England have assembled one of the best and most destructive ODI batting units in the history of the format. They are a side which sets its sights incredibly high when they bat first and are intimidated by no total when chasing.
Their weakness is that they rely very heavily on their batting due to a lack of penetration with the ball. They are not nearly as well-rounded, for example, as the Australian line-up which won the last World Cup in 2015 – David Warner, Aaron Finch, Steve Smith, Michael Clarke, Shane Watson, Glenn Maxwell, Brad Haddin, James Faulkner, Mitchell Johnson, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood.
Australia’s batting unit was beastly, with a commanding, experienced top seven and batting all the way down to ten. Their bowling was also elite, with three major pace weapons in Starc, Johnson and Hazlewood.
England do not have a single quick who has the same penetration as that trio as ODI bowlers, with their best bowler being leg-spinner Adil Rashid. That Australian line-up was able to conjure magic with either bat or ball, whereas England are extraordinary with the bat and only serviceable with the ball.
That Australian attack could scythe through batting line-ups, as they did in the World Cup final dismissing New Zealand for 183. England’s attack doesn’t have that same potency – their focus is on limiting the damage caused by opposition batting line-ups, confident in the knowledge their own batsmen will run amok.
That’s all well and good until your batsmen have an off day, like in the semi-final of last year’s Champions Trophy, and your bowlers are required to produce a stunning performance to win you a match. England’s attack lacks the class to run through opponents with any regularity.
Such a scenario played out the very first time this new England team played in a knockout match, in the 2017 Champions Trophy held in England. Their batting line-up had a rare stumble, rolled for 211, and Pakistan made a mockery of that chase, making 2-215 from 37 overs in response.
The reality is that England’s ODI strategy is risky, one-dimensional and unproven in knockout matches. Such is the tsunami of hype which has built up behind them that they will bear enormous expectations at home in the World Cup. Yes, they deserve to be favourites, but they’re the most vulnerable World Cup favourites in memory.
Spin is the way forward for Australia in ODIs and T20s
Australia’s pace bowlers were absolutely mauled on this tour of England, combining to return 26 wickets at an average of 44 in the ODIs. The Aussie quicks also went at a massive 7.0 runs per over in that series, compared to just 5.1 runs per over for Australia’s two spinners, Ashton Agar and Nathan Lyon.
It was the same story in yesterday’s one-off Twenty20 match, with Agar and leggie Mitchell Swepson doing a reasonable job, conceding just 71 runs from their eight overs, compared to a monstrous 150 off Australia’s 12 overs of pace. With Agar well capable of holding down number seven in T20s, Australia have the luxury of picking five bowlers, including the West Australian.
In the future only two of those five bowlers should be quicks. Australia should look to play three frontline spinners and two specialist fast bowlers, with a third pace option provided by an all-rounder like Mitch Marsh.
Given that Australia have only very recently toyed with the idea of playing more than one spinner in limited overs cricket, it could be a while before they start fielding three in T20sIs. But it is a necessary change.