Australia may need to break up their star opening combination of David Warner and Aaron Finch for the T20 World Cup to address the middle-order crisis that’s deepened during their shambolic tour of the Caribbean.
As they’ve gone 0-3 down in this five-match series against the West Indies, Australia have given middle-order chances to six players, all of whom have failed.
Moises Henriques, Dan Christian, Ben McDermott, Josh Philippe, Ashton Turner and Alex Carey have batted between four and seven in the order, collectively returning 148 runs at 13, with a woeful strike rate of 103.
This series was an opportunity for Australia to fix the middle-order woes that have plagued them for years, but instead this problem has only worsened.
Unless there’s a major turnaround soon, Australia should shift Warner or Finch down to number four for the World Cup in October.
This would allow wicketkeeper Matthew Wade to bat in his favoured position as opener, where he has largely succeeded in his T20 international career, and Glenn Maxwell to be the side’s blaster at number five.
Australia missed a trick by not bringing Josh Inglis on this tour, the only wicketkeeper in the country who has an excellent T20 record in the middle order.
With Josh Philippe and Alex Carey flopping so far in internationals, and Inglis not being considered, it seems Wade is almost certain to take the gloves at the World Cup. The question, then, is how to get the best out of him.
Like Philippe and Carey, Wade is a fish out of water in the middle order but he does have a solid record as an opener, with 345 international runs at 29, and most importantly a blazing strike rate of 153.
When he bats in the middle order, Wade’s average knock is 14 from 14 balls. When he opens, that improves massively to 29 from 19 balls.
It makes him a handy keeper-batsman who doesn’t waste deliveries in the powerplay. It also lets Australia use one of Warner or Finch to plug their hole in the middle.
Warner would be my pick. Not only does that keep Australia’s favoured left-right opening combination, with Finch and Wade, but Warner is a more rounded batsman than Finch.
A batting order of Finch, Wade, Smith, Warner and Maxwell would be the most balanced top five Australia have fielded for years.
That deeper batting would give Wade the licence to tee off in the powerplay – and he is at his best when he operates with such freedom.
If Australia wished to keep Warner opening, Finch had great success batting at four or lower in the 2016 and 2017 IPL tournaments, making 450 runs at 32 in those matches, with a blistering strike rate of 156.
Warner can adapt to a lower position too. In 2016, he spent four matches batting in the middle order for Australia, averaging 33 at a strike rate of 153. He’s excelled in that role at times over his long and illustrious IPL career.
Warner has all the tools to be a fantastic number four, thanks to his potent mix of power hitting, ability to work the ones and twos, proficiency against pace and spin, and brilliant running between wickets.
The top five I’ve suggested would, of course, still need to be complemented by a competent number six, with Marsh, Christian and Henriques the main contenders. But if Australia can get their top five right, then the number six role will become far less important.
Sliding Warner down the order to let Wade open looks like Australia’s best chance of fixing their batting in time for the T20 World Cup.