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Three players Australia must select to tour South Africa

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Expert
21st January, 2020
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18013 Reads

Young quick Jhye Richardson and all-rounders Mitch Marsh and Glenn Maxwell should be picked for Australia’s tour of South Africa next month as the Aussies prepare for the 2020 World Cup.

Australia’s best-possible XIs for both ODI and T20 cricket are almost identical, with the only obvious change being to remove Marnus Labuschagne for T20 cricket and replace him with Ashton Agar batting at seven.

This is the 15-man combined squad I would pick for the tour, where Australia will play three matches in each format:

Aaron Finch (c), David Warner, Steve Smith, Marnus Labuschagne, Mitch Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Peter Handscomb, Alex Carey, Ashton Agar, Adam Zampa, Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Jhye Richardson, Josh Hazlewood, Kane Richardson.

Australia’s best ODI XI
1. David Warner
2. Aaron Finch (c)
3. Steve Smith
4. Marnus Labuschagne
5. Mitch Marsh
6. Alex Carey
7. Glenn Maxwell
8. Mitchell Starc
9. Pat Cummins
10. Adam Zampa
11. Josh Hazlewood

Pat Cummins appeals for a wicket

(AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

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Australia’s best T20 XI
1. David Warner
2. Aaron Finch (c)
3. Steve Smith
4. Glenn Maxell
5. Mitch Marsh
6. Alex Carey (wk)
7. Ashton Agar
8. Jhye Richardson
9. Mitchell Starc
10. Pat Cummins
11. Adam Zampa

There are only two changes between those sides and, realistically, that could even be reduced to one, with Richardson a strong option to take Hazlewood’s place in ODIs.

Hazlewood has an average of 25 and economy rate of 4.76, and remains a key part of Australia’s core 50-over squad. What Richardson offers is greater versatility, in particular at the death. The young West Australian has a great yorker and an array of changeups which he has honed in T20 cricket, having already played many more T20 matches at the age of 23 than Hazlewood has at the age of 29.

In ODIs, Richardson is well suited to all three phases of an innings – he is dangerous with the new ball, keeps things tight in the middle, and has the tools to handle the slog overs.

He was one of the breakout ODI stars of 2019 after producing a sequence of stunning efforts against powerhouse side India, both home and away.

In those six matches, Richardson grabbed 14 wickets at 20 and caused huge problems for Indian megastar Virat Kohli.

The West Australian bowled 58 deliveries to Kohli for the remarkable figures of 4-38. Australia would have killed for such dominance against Kohli in the just-completed series, during which he scored 89 and 78 in India’s two victories.

Virat Kohli.

Virat Kohli (Photo by Alex Davidson/Getty Images)

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Richardson would have been in Australia’s starting XI at the 2019 World Cup if not for an untimely shoulder injury. He has rebounded well from that setback, averaging 28 in this summer’s domestic one dayers, 27 in the Sheffield Shield, and taking 14 wickets at 23 with an excellent economy of 7.08 in the BBL.

Mitch Marsh’s run at last year’s World Cup was also interrupted by injury. Just like Richardson, Marsh is pressing his claims for international selection with hot form in the BBL.

The powerful batting all-rounder has thumped 367 runs at 41 for the Perth Scorchers, with an excellent scoring rate of 9.06 runs per over. The fact Marsh has flourished while coming in as low as five in the order makes him extra appealing.

Australia have a glut of top-four options in T20s, so it is middle-order batsmen like Marsh that they need to stand up ahead of the World Cup, to be held Down Under this October.

With Warner, Finch, Smith and Maxwell all but locked in as Australia’s top four, Marsh and wicketkeeper-batsman Alex Carey should be given the chance to nail down the other two top-six spots on the tour of South Africa.

Carey has been an ODI revelation in the middle order, with 616 runs at 44 across his past 20 innings, with a strike rate of 100. Yet he remains unproven with the blade in T20s, having averaged 14 in his 13 international knocks. The brilliant way in which Carey has transitioned from a slow-scoring opener in domestic 50-over cricket to a powerful finisher in ODIs gives me confidence he can make a similar adjustment in T20.

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Maxwell, meanwhile, was conspicuous in his absence in India. While there are no guarantees he would have succeeded in that series, Australia needed his rare gift for insanely-quick scoring in their middle order.

Owning the second-highest strike rate (123) in history, Maxwell is the only current Australian player with a career rate of better than a-run-a-ball. He offers crucial variety to a batting line-up which boasts an experienced and consistent top three, a promising number four in Labuschagne, and a versatile finisher in Carey.

Add the dangerous ball-striking and all-round ability of Mitch Marsh and Australia have a balanced ODI line-up.

The same goes for the T20 team, which is the bookies’ favourite to win this year’s World Cup.