Australia beat Pakistan last night to continue their hot form in T20Is but they do face some selection issues due to Kane Richardson, Ben McDermott and Ashton Turner failing to seize their opportunities to date.
Steve Smith last night played a stunning knock of 80* from 51 balls in Canberra to lead Australia to four victories from as many completed matches over the past fortnight.
The hosts had earlier restricted Pakistan to 6-150 thanks to disciplined bowling from Pat Cummins (1-19 from four overs), Ashton Agar (2-23 from four), and Mitchell Starc (0-25 from four).
Australia have the core of an elite T20I side – a fantastic top four in David Warner, Aaron Finch, Smith and Glenn Maxwell, and a quality attack of Starc, Cummins, Agar and Adam Zampa.
But with the T20 World Cup just 11 months away, Richardson, McDermott, Turner and Alex Carey have failed to impress in the shortest format so far.
Pressure would be mounting on all four of those players given the fine T20 cricketers waiting in the wings like Matthew Wade, D’Arcy Short, Billy Stanlake, Chris Lynn, Mitch Marsh, James Faulkner and Andrew Tye (when he returns from injury).
Richardson is the clear weak link in Australia’s current five-man attack. Last night he was thrashed for 51 runs from four overs, going at 12.75 runs per over while the rest of the Aussie bowlers combined conceded just 6.12 an over.
After 14 matches for Australia, he has an average of 31 and an economy rate of 8.25.
Compare Richardson’s T20I record to those of Starc (average 18, economy 6.74), Cummins (average 20, economy 6.86), Stanlake (average 19, economy 7.95), Faulkner (average 19, economy 7.96) and Tye (average 22, economy 8.87).
Granted, Richardson was the leading wicket-taker in last year’s BBL, so he is not a random selection. He just hasn’t been able to bridge the gap between domestic and international cricket.
The same has been true so far for McDermott.
The 24-year-old Tasmanian has a terrific BBL record yet he has looked out of his depth for Australia. McDermott averages only 14 from his 11 international matches and has consistently got bogged down badly, stalling the momentum of Australian innings.
His scoring rate of just 5.6 runs per over in his T20I career is very poor. Last night he again played a scratchy knock of 21 from 22 balls that put pressure on his batting partner Smith to keep the required run rate from ballooning.
McDermott has looked nervous and unnatural at the crease so far in T20Is. We are yet to see him bat with the freedom and instinctiveness that has made him such an appealing BBL cricketer.
Unfortunately for the young batsman, time is running out for him to make a positive impression. There is just one more matching remaining in this series against Pakistan and, after that, Australia are not scheduled to play another T20I for more than three months.
Unless McDermott shines in the series decider it is hard to see him being retained in Australia’s T20 squad.
Turner may have a bit more leeway given he is a middle order specialist and has had fewer innings in T20Is than McDermott.
But, after 10 matches, his batting average of 14 and glacial scoring rate of 6.0 runs per over do not reflect well on Turner.
Realistically, these are all minor selection issues. As stated above, Australia have the skeleton of an excellent T20I side, as well as a cluster of quality white ball cricketers outside of the current lineup. They are in better shape in T20Is than they have been for a long time.
Were it not for the rain that washed out the second T20I against Pakistan at the SCG, Australia likely would have a 5-0 record across these two recent series.
First and foremost, their key batsmen all are looking in great nick and their bowling attack, Richardson apart, is gelling nicely.
Australia are cruising.