England’s 2005 Ashes team ball tampered, their former captain Mike Atherton ball tampered and another ex-skipper, Michael Vaughan, has suggested both James Anderson and Stuart Broad were involved in ball tampering.
For starters, the Australians have three world-class opening batsmen in David Warner, Aaron Finch and Usman Khawaja – a good problem to have.
But which two walk through the gate together can mean the difference in retaining the World Cup, or not.
The current decision has been made difficult by Warner’s 12-month suspension where Finch and Khawaja averaged 81.70 as an opening pair. Khawaja has scored the most ODI runs in the world this year with 739 at 59.15 and Finch the second highest with 634 at 52.83.
Mighty impressive figures in Warner’s enforced absence.
But Warner is the best of the three on the world stage, a fact that can’t be overlooked, nor underestimated.
Three of Australia’s most successful ODI opening batsmen Adam Gilchrist, Mark Waugh, and Matt Hayden are in total agreement. Warner must open in the World Cup – his devastating batting mustn’t be wasted down the order, even as early as three.
Warner proved his point as the IPL’s most successful batsman with 692 runs at 69.2, scoring 99 more runs than second-placed Lokesh Rahul from two fewer visits to the crease.
As Finch is by far the bigger hitter in a head-to-head with Khawaja, he should be Warner’s partner, with Khawaja at three.
Problem number two has recently surfaced with former Australian captain, and current assistant ODI coach, Ricky Ponting wanting Marcus Stoinis at three.
That’s an astonishing call with Stoinis very lucky to be in the 15-man World Cup squad as the expense of Peter Handscomb.
In 2019, Handscomb has scored 479 ODI runs at 43.54 and should be in the squad as first choice keeper over Alex Carey, while Stoinis has struggled with 242 runs at 30.25, and even worse with the ball claiming just eight wickets costing 52.63 apiece.
So far we have Warner and Finch to open, Khawja at three, and then Steve Smith on return from his year-long suspension by cracking 88*, 91*, and 76 in his last three ODI digs, averaging a massive 255 off 267 with 21 fours, and two sixes.
Smith will be one of the best performers in the Cup.
The fifth slot belongs to Shaun Marsh who has had a solid 2019 with 435 at a very healthy 48.33, and who cemented his berth with an unbeaten 55 during the week.
The sixth slot belongs to Glenn Maxwell with his 2019 stats of 435 runs at 41.63, and if he tees off with a combination of powerful sensible batting limiting his hero low percentage shots, he too will be a shining light at the Cup.
Seventh will be Carey, and then into the bowlers with Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc to open, with either Nathan Coulter-Nile or Jason Behrendorff first change with Coulter-Nile the better batting option, leaving leggie Adam Zampa with the spin responsibilities.
That means offie Maxwell will be charged with bowling 10 overs, and that could be the making of his all-rounder recognition as he’s one of the best fieldsmen in world cricket, but bowling has been his weak link.
That leaves Stoinis, Behrendorff, Nathan Lyon and Kane Richardson as standbys in case of injury.
So the first choice Australian side in batting order:
That line-up has the clout to bring home the bacon.