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Creaks aside, Australia's cup defence on track

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Roar Guru
28th May, 2019
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With Australia’s final hit out consigned to the history books, can the country’s fans be confident of retaining the trophy that they won at home four years ago?

Or is it a bridge too far considering what has happened over the past twelve months. Such has been the upheaval within the squad it could perhaps be considered an achievement just to be in the position they are in.

Australia are a very good chance of making the semi-final stage without looking like a realistic chance of winning the World Cup itself.

There are creaks within the squad that bely the fact that it is still significantly stronger than any Australian team that has taken the field for an ODI in recent times. The simple act of reintegrating Steve Smith and Dave Warner into the XI does this.

Warner is yet to showcase the form he had during the IPL, but Smith has been sublime and looks ready to be the rock at number four throughout the tournament.

Steve Smith of Australia

Steve Smith of the Australia XI (AAP Image/Dan Peled)

In the absence of Smith and Warner, Glenn Maxwell has rediscovered himself and has been the main thrust within the team, and this is perhaps not an unconnected occurrence.

Under Smith as captain and Lehmann as coach, Maxwell’s bowling went from underused to non-existent, and it was very noticeable in the way he was ignored in this fact.

He also appeared to be getting mixed messages from the leadership and the selectors in regards to what was expected from him, and it did appear as though he was being forced out for reasons that did not include his performance on the field.

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Since their departure from those roles, Maxwell has fought his way back, not only exacting a lift in the order from seven to more likely role at number five, but also bowling significant overs and with success, being both economical and as a wicket taker.

This change has been plain to see for all, and in some way must come down to the encouragement of both captain Aaron Finch and coach Justin Langer.

It is an interesting comparison as to how a talented player can either thrive or wilt under differing leaders. How Maxwell performs his role will be crucial to Australia’s chances over the next month or so.

Glenn Maxwell Australia cricket

Australia’s Glenn Maxwell. (Mark Nolan/Getty Images)

How the selectors go about choosing Usman Khawaja and Shaun Marsh will be interesting. Both have been excellent in ODI’s over the past twelve months, and both look in good touch right now.

However, unless it is decided to abandon Marcus Stoinis as the allrounder at number six, only one of these two left handers can fit into the starting XI. Whoever misses out if this is the case will feel unlucky, but it does appear likely that both will have their chance at some stage through the tournament to be in the team and play their part.

Alex Carey has shown good signs with the bat, but it will be his glovework that needs to be at its absolute best. Missed chances behind the stumps will be costly in this tournament and he will know he needs to be at 100 per cent throughout when in the field.

The creaks are still within the team, and they will be hoping to iron them out as quickly as possible. Captain Finch is still being dismissed on the back foot in front of the stumps, and though he found form in the UAE against Pakistan, that troublesome mode of dismissal is still his Achilles heel.

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Stoinis has barely scored a run or taken a wicket in months and despite Shane Warne’s backing he needs to deliver if he is to keep his spot in the XI.

The third fast bowling spot behind Mitch Starc and Pat Cummins is problematic, with both Nathan Coulter-Nile and Kane Richardson attacking but expensive.

NCN is likely to get the chance due to his lower order batting potential but he needs to find some potency to back up his opening partners.

Adam Zampa will be the specialist spinner, and needs to be the equal of the other spinners in this competition.

Australia's Adam Zampa bowls

Australia’s Adam Zampa in action. (AAP Image/SNPA, John Cowpland)

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Spin will be a major weapon for most teams during this World Cup and if Zampa can be their equal it will propel Australia’s chances of qualifying for the finals to greater heights.

With both Maxwell and Smith being used in the warm up games, the chances of Nathan Lyon playing a role here looks to only come down to if the fast bowling second stringers can’t do their job and it is decided he may well fill that void.

Can Australia win? They can, but it feels unlikely. England look like they hold the fate of the tournament in their hands.

India are struggling but perhaps are just biding their time. New Zealand will be strong again, and South Africa just have to find a way of not choking to be a threat. Pakistan look dreadful but are so unpredictable they could cause a surprise.

The Windies young kids now have Gayle, Russell and Brathwaite back which can only help them. Bangladesh will cause some damage with their spinners, while Sri Lanka and Afghanistan will be looking to cause some upsets.

If Australia hold their nerve and win the games they should they will make the semi-finals. From there, as they have shown before, anything is possible.

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