Australia have enjoyed a reasonably strong start to the Cricket World Cup, picking up four wins so far against just the one loss – but there are big issues bubbling under the surface.
After Australia’s 2-1 loss to India, changes are needed in both the batting and bowling departments.
Travis Head and Marcus Harris were the two leading run scorers and should play against Sri Lanka.
Shaun Marsh failed yet again, while Peter Handscomb and Marnus Labuschagne were lucky to play in Sydney, where they both had good starts but failed to pass 50. They need to play more Shield cricket before being picked again.
Veteran Usman Khawaja also failed to perform, but should still hold his place. However, if he doesn’t perform against Sri Lanka, he may be squeezed out when Steve Smith and David Warner return.
The three batsmen to come in should be Joe Burns, Glenn Maxwell and Marcus Stoinis.
Both Burns and Maxwell have excellent Shield form over the last two seasons and were unfairly left out of the Test squad to play Pakistan.
While Stoinis’ overall first-class record isn’t great, his form this season has been good, averaging 42 with three 50s from seven innings. He’s also taken ten wickets at 25, so his bowling gives the selectors their much-desired pace all-rounder. If Stoinis performs at Test level, it’ll be hard for the selectors to find an excuse to pick Mitch Marsh.
As for the bowlers, Mitch Starc and Josh Hazlewood have both been out of form and should be dropped, while Pat Cummins should take the new ball.
Given that the first match against Sri Lanka is a day-night Test, it makes sense to pick seam bowlers. Chadd Sayers would be ideal but unfortunately he hasn’t played since November due to injury.
Instead, Michael Neser and Peter Siddle should play, with Jackson Bird and Chris Tremain the backups.
My Australian team to play Sri Lanka:
Tim Paine (c, wk)
12th man Chris Tremain
13th man Jackson Bird