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Why Australia should be optimistic about the World Cup

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Roar Rookie
19th March, 2019
27

Somehow, from the depths of their prolonged period of mediocrity, Australia appear to have found their way in ODI cricket.

Consider this of their 3-2 series victory against India.

The series was the first time an Australian ODI outfit had won a five-match series after losing the first two games.

It was Australia’s first ODI series win in India since 2009.

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And perhaps most importantly, it was the Australians’ first ODI series triumph since January 2017 – a 26-month drought in the 50-over format that had induced sheer panic when considering the prospects of Justin Langer’s men prospering at the World Cup come June.

But all that angst has swiftly diminished following the gripping contest in India.

After scrambling for the best part of a year to unearth a competitive top seven, the selectors now appear to have the best kind of problem leading into their last ODI campaign before the World Cup against Pakistan: a top order producing right at the opportune time, with exiled stars David Warner and Steve Smith still to fit back into a line-up that now looks to be balancing nicely.

Chief amongst this top-order revival has been Usman Khawaja, the player of the series against India solidifying his selection for England with a batting masterclass against Virat Kohli’s men.

Promoted to opening the batting with skipper Aaron Finch, the Test No.3 plundered 383 runs at 76 over the five matches, a run of form that registered two centuries and continually set a platform for the Australian innings.

He looked in control, completely unburdened from the disappointing home summer that had some questioning his position in the Test team.

His stroke play was immaculate at times, and his series strike rate of 88 showed a willingness and ability to continually rotate the strike.

He was ably supported by Peter Handscomb, another of the perceived red-ball specialists who were parachuted into the top order at the beginning of the year to offer stability.

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Handscomb, too, produced a tour that has all but secured his place in the World Cup squad, his 236 runs at 47 proving vital in the victory over the hosts.

Peter Handscomb (left) and Steve Smith of Australia

Peter Handscomb could combine with the returning Steve Smith in the middle order during the World Cup. (AAP Image/Richard Wainwright)

He looks to be the quintessential one-day batsmen – energetic at the crease, with the ability to work the ball to each part of the ground with ease.

His career in the Baggy Green may be momentarily halted, but he looks the part to anchor the Australian ODI middle order for years to come.

In saying that, his place in the World Cup line-up is far from certain, a testament to the sudden abundance of batting options.

The dynamic performance of Ashton Turner has made things even more complicated for the selectors.

The West Australian has bolted into squad contention with his extraordinary knock of 84 not out from 43 balls in Mohali to chase down with ease the 358 set by the Indians.

His ascension has already proved costly for Shaun Marsh. The veteran was dropped for the deciding fixture in Dehli after a poor series in which he totalled just 29 runs from his three matches.

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Still, Australia’s best ODI batsmen of the past 12 months will be given ample opportunity against Pakistan to re-establish his dominate 50-over form, and his place in the World Cup squad is still looking likely.

Finch momentarily allayed doubts on his credentials with an assured 93 in Ranchi, however the significance of this was lessened with ducks in both Hyderabad and Mohali.

For now, his place appears secure, thanks in part to the lack of potential captains should he be moved aside.

From the bowling perspective, the form of Pat Cummins was exactly what the national hierarchy would have been hoping for.

Cummins was exceptional. His 14 wickets in the series came at an average of just 15.

Likewise Adam Zampa, who looks to have now nailed down the No.1 spinner role.

Whilst expensive at times, his 11 wickets across the five matches were more than enough to sway the series in favour of the Australians.

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His 3/46 in Dehli, in particular, was crucial to securing the deciding match for his country.

Jhye Richardson continues to go from strength to strength, with his eight wickets in the series enhancing his fine form in the ODI format in 2019.

The young West Australian has now taken 14 wickets at an average of 20 this year in ODIs, and is now firming as an integral squad member for the World Cup.

With neither Mitchell Starc nor Josh Hazelwood available for the Pakistan series, another selection headache looms in determining who will form part of the pace gang entrusted to deliver on the English decks.

But given how far Australia had fallen in ODI cricket, these are all good dilemmas for this group.

With a bit over two months until cricket’s premier competition, Australia – unbelievably – appear to be back in the one-day game.

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