David Warner scored his maiden T20I hundred and Glenn Maxwell cut loose before Australia’s attack ran through Sri Lanka in the series opener in Adelaide last night.
By racking up a mammoth total of 2-233 and then keeping the tourists to 9-99, Australia secured their largest-ever winning margin in a T20I.
While Sri Lanka are ranked seventh in T20Is, they were also coming off four consecutive wins, including a shock 3-0 clean sweep of world number one ranked Pakistan in Lahore earlier this month.
As much as Sri Lanka were listless yesterday, Australia were commanding from beginning to end. Skipper and opener Aaron Finch sprinted off the mark, clattering five boundaries from his first 15 balls.
At the other end Warner was struggling for both timing and placement. The veteran looked frustrated. After his horror Ashes series, Warner must have been desperate to quickly banish those dark memories by setting the Aussie international summer ablaze.
Eventually, he did just that.
First he used his bottom hand to flick seamer Kasun Rajitha over midwicket for four. Then off the next two balls Warner sliced him to the third man boundary and then rocked back to pull him deep into the crowd for six.
Soon after he played two shots that suggested he was seeing the ball like a boulder – a textbook reverse sweep for four off left-arm wrist spinner Lakshan Sandakan, and a lofted cover drive for six off Rajitha. Warner was cantering.
From the final delivery of Australia’s innings he squeezed the ball through the off side to bring up his ton. The trademark leap and air punch followed. While that celebration can, at times, feel a little hollow, there was no doubting the genuine emotion expressed here by Warner.
Clearly, this knock was immensely significant to him after all he has endured the past 18 months. It could be a catalyst for yet another dominant home summer for Warner.
Meanwhile, Maxwell put his teammate in the shade for a while as he launched an audacious knock of 62 from 28 balls. He slog swept, drove inside out, cut with authority, pulled with venom, and conjured a handful of typically unique strokes. The full-speed-ahead nature of T20s is a rhythm that suits Maxwell, that draws out his best.
Sri Lanka were at his mercy from the first ball he faced. Then Australia’s bowlers came out and pulled their weight. Sri Lanka badly lack world-class T20I batsmen and it showed against world-class bowlers.
Mitchell Starc (2-18 from four overs) and Pat Cummins (2-27 from four overs) reduced the tourists to 3-13, effectively killing off their challenge.
The hosts’ spinners then bowled with impressive accuracy. Adam Zampa (3-14 from four overs) proved once more that while he remains an enigma in ODIs, he is a quality T20 bowler. It is his best format by a large margin.
From 23 T20Is he has the brilliant record of 25 wickets at 17, with an amazing economy rate of 5.91 runs per over.
Meanwhile, his spin partner Ashton Agar continued his solid form since coming back into the T20I side last year, with 1-13 from four overs.
Acting as the fifth bowler in T20Is, Agar’s role is to choke the run rate. He has done that very well since returning, going at a miserly 6.64 runs per over across 14 matches.
The left-armer is never likely to be a prolific wicket-taker at this level, but he does not need to be in a side that has four other front-line bowlers.
Australia’s top six is strong enough, and Agar’s batting ability is sufficient for the West Australian to be positioned at seven.
Having a fifth bowler who is so economical is a boon for Australia. While Agar is far from the complete article as a T20I cricketer, his presence gives the Australian side a nice balance.
If he can further grow into his role then the Aussies should have a well-rounded attack come the World Cup in a year from now.