‘I think they’re hostile at the best of times.’
If there’s anything Australia’s World Cup games have shown us, it’s our top order can sometimes be one-paced. It relies so heavily on David Warner to score big and score quickly.
Aaron Finch has been ticking along at a run a ball, but Warner is the key to getting Australia off to flyers and chasing down mammoth totals. The last two games have brutally exposed this – when batting slowly he made a decent score, yet we ultimately fell 36 runs short of chasing 353 against India.
But when scoring quickly, he ensured Australia reached the 300 mark to fend off Pakistan. With Smith and Usman Khawaja both playing more conservative roles, including anchoring the innings and turning the strike over, it means either Warner or Finch have to get a move on. So far, it’s only been Warner capable of doing this.
But is this going to happen consistently? Nothing against Warner, but you can’t bank on him to always score incredibly quickly. Sometimes the opening bowlers are just too good.
Glenn Maxwell has been trialled at number four and five depending on circumstances, and has proven he is nothing but a cameo player currently. Last World Cup he tore the heart out of teams with meaningful whirlwind knocks in the last 15 overs but, so far in this tournament, he is only seemingly good for 30 balls at most before throwing his wicket away.
One player who has contributed aggressively and constantly, however, is Alex Carey.
The gun keeper and batsman has experience batting higher up – his BBL contributions for the Adelaide Strikers are blistering and consistent. He knows how to strike quickly. His knock of 55 not out off 35 balls against India showed he can fire against the world’s best. But his gritty 30 against Pakistan showed his talents are wasted when having to bat with the tail.
He is still capable of doing this, but it limits his freedom to do what he does best, which is to come out and strike the ball at a fearsome rate.
There are a lot of parallels between him and South Africa’s Quinton de Kock. Both are fine keepers, and have experience opening the batting in white ball cricket. Both have luscious drives and can play shots in a 360-degree arc around the ground. They mix power with touch, finesse with brute force. De Kock may be more unconventional, but both have similar impacts when they make runs, which is often.
For future games, Australia should consider changing their batting order. Warner and Finch are slowly gelling again and simply must stay as an opening partnership.
Steve Smith has proven he is a superb first drop, and should take the responsibility of this position in the way Virat Kohli and Joe Root do for their countries.
After that, it may be worth putting Carey at four depending on the situation. If we are in positions like we have been against India and Pakistan, where the run rate needs to increase or be maintained, let him go in and play himself in before unleashing his withering strokes.
Khawaja can bat at five, as he is good enough to work with the tail and it also allows him to play himself in. Khawaja should only bat at four if we are flying, and we can afford to give him five overs to play himself in before unleashing.
This means Maxwell can slide down to six and take some responsibility off his shoulders. It may be the change Australia needs to get the best out of their middle order.
See how MS Dhoni and other keepers in other teams bat higher to great effect. Maybe it’s time we have faith in Carey and elevate him to number four or five, working with Khawaja depending on the situation.
He’s definitely too talented to be wasted down at six or seven when he could make the defining impact earlier in the game.