After comfortable victories against Pakistan and Sri Lanka, Australia’s World Cup campaign is looking healthier than it did a week ago.
However, despite encouraging performances from both openers, Aaron Finch’s side still needs to lift a gear to present a challenge to tournament heavyweights India and England.
With David Warner and Steven Smith back in the mix, Australia’s one day batting line-up is looking healthy overall, but there is room for improvement. Despite posting a century against Pakistan, Warner’s strike rate is worrying inconsistent for a player not renowned as a nudger.
While he has justified Justin Langer’s choice to open with him and Finch by contributing to a run of strong partnerships, Warner has not managed an innings with a strike rate above 100 in Australia’s five World Cup matches.
In contrast, his partner Finch has posted strike rates of 134, 60, 102, 97 and 115 over the same period. With Warner, Finch and Smith all in strong form, Australia’s best chance to take the fight to India and England is to fight fire with fire at the top of the order, setting up a strong base for Smith and the middle order to build on.
Both India and England feature opening pairs who can take the game away in the first 10 to 15 overs of an innings, a quality normally associated with Warner and Finch. Unfortunately, Warner’s consistent run of good scores has not been accompanied by his usual clubbing of opposition bowlers into submission.
Although he may still regaining his rhythm at international level after returning from a 12-month ban, Australia need Warner to kick things up a notch for the remainder of the tournament to pose a serious threaten at the pointy end of the competition.
The Aussie openers at their brutal best can be a terrifying sight, and Langer and Finch will be hoping Warner can find another gear in the coming games.
Elsewhere in Australia’s batting line-up, it will be interesting to see which way the selectors go if Marcus Stoinis is unable to recover from injury.
With a tight deadline set for him to return soon or be replaced by Mitchell Marsh in the squad, the selectors will need to decide which Marsh will bring more value to the middle order should Stoinis be ruled out of the World Cup.
Despite Shaun Marsh’s strong one day form over the last 18 months, the selectors would be hesitant to go without a seam bowling all-rounder for the remainder of the tournament. While Stoinis’ absence has been covered to date by an attack of four quicks and the part-time spin of Maxwell and Finch, it appears unlikely they would persevere with this in coming matches.
If Stoinis is unable to recover in time, it would seem Mitchell Marsh will return from the wilderness yet again, hoping to prove he is indeed the messiah and not just a very naughty boy.
With the Cricket Australia media machine already telling us about how the younger Marsh is in peak physical condition and has learnt a lot in his time outside the national setup, it certainly appears a recall is inevitable.
Finally, Australia needs a spinner. It is baffling that Nathan Lyon is yet to make an appearance in the tournament to date, despite his strong performances in England over the years.
While he is a relative newcomer to the one day set-up, Lyon’s control and nagging lines would add more balance to an Australian attack that has been too pace heavy of late.
With Kane Richardson putting in a stronger performance against Sri Lanka to give the Aussies a third seam option alongside Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins, the upcoming match against Bangladesh appears the perfect time to bring Lyon into the side before facing off against England in just over a week’s time.
After losing to tournament favourite India, Australia has made promising progress with wins against Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
If Warner can return to his blitzing best, the middle order can provide more support to Smith and the bowling attack can show a bit more variety, Australia could yet be a contender at the 2019 World Cup.