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Opinion

The Australian line-up that can win the Cricket World Cup … if the selectors make the right calls

12th November, 2023
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12th November, 2023
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The hard part is over for Australia – they’ve managed to qualify for the World Cup semi-finals despite an imbalanced squad and an 0-2 start to the tournament.

Now the really hard part is on the horizon – reversing their two thunderous defeats to South Africa and India, on the assumption that the tournament favourites account for New Zealand in their semi. 

The Australians rolled the dice at this tournament by carrying an injured Travis Head through their first four matches and banking on the core group of players grinding it out through the nine group matches. 

Alex Carey played just the first outing and Sean Abbott got his one run in the meaningless final fixture against Bangladesh while the struggling Mitchell Starc was given a rest. 

Those two will not be recalled for Thursday’s semi in Kolkata against South Africa, leaving the selectors with 13 options for the final XI. 

Mitch Marsh.

Mitch Marsh. (Photo by Matthew Lewis-ICC/ICC via Getty Images)

Their dilemma now is whether they carry an extra specialist batter in Marnus Labuschagne or roll with Marcus Stoinis or, less likely, Cameron Green as a seam-bowling all-rounder. 

Steve Smith produced his most assured innings of the tournament in his return from a one-game absence due to vertigo with his unbeaten 63 against Bangladesh and is in no danger of making way for Labuschagne despite an underwhelming Cup campaign. 

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Smith will slot in at four after the top-order trio of Head, David Warner and Mitchell Marsh, who banged out his first century in 15 attempts at first drop on Saturday.

Stoinis, habitually aesthetically pleasing in batting, bowling and fielding but lacking impact, should surely be deemed surplus to requirements. 

With Glenn Maxwell returning as the fifth bowler for the semi plus Marsh and Head able to soak up overs, there is no need for Australia to play a designated all-rounder to back up the four frontline bowlers. 

However, the selectors have primarily been rigid in their adherence to having an all-rounder bridging the gap between the batters and bowlers, but Stoinis and Green have been bits and pieces options rather than integral parts of the line-up.

Stoinis has bowled one or two overs three times this Cup and has never been required to send down more than five.

When the Aussies were pumped by 134 runs in game two against the Proteas a full month ago, their bowling was OK, restricting their powerful line-up to a relatively modest 7-311 at Lucknow.

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And that was when Adam Zampa (1-70 off 10) was battling to dig himself out of a form slump, which he managed to do in the following game to go on to become the Cup’s leading wicket-taker with 22.

It was the batting which let Australia down, with Labuschagne’s 46 the only decent contribution after the first three wickets fell inside the power play with 50 on the board. 

With the top-order trio, Maxwell and Inglis able to blast the ball to the boundary and beyond, having Smith and Labuschagne is an insurance policy in the middle stages. 

Labuschagne also has an imposing recent record against the Proteas – apart from top-scoring in the group game, he peeled off a century in his 283 runs at 70.75, striking at just under 100, in the recent white-ball tour of South Africa. 

He is somewhat of an accidental tourist. The Queenslander was not even picked for the trip to Africa and was supposed to be captaining the Australia A side against the Kiwis but got a late call-up when Smith injured his wrist. 

The 29-year-old has subsequently played every ODI for Australia since that reprieve despite always being mentioned as a likely omission in the lead-up to game day.

Adam Zampa celebrates the wicket of Moeen Ali.

Adam Zampa celebrates the wicket of Moeen Ali. (Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)

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When it comes to the attack, the pressure is on Starc (6.55 economy rate) and captain Pat Cummins (6.15) to bowl tighter. 

Josh Hazlewood, Zampa and Maxwell can be relied upon to get through 30 of the 50 overs so if Starc and Cummins get through the bulk of their allotments, there is even less need for Stoinis or Green to be selected as a back-up option.

Marsh looked rusty in going for 48 from his four overs against Bangladesh but coach Andrew McDonald said the West Australian is fully fit after recent ankle niggles while Head has probably been underbowled since his return to the side.

He’s only been called upon in three of his five matches but despite not picking up a wicket, he’s only gone for 5.43 an over as he’s quickly chewed up an end in the middle overs, which is a highly commendable output for a part-time trundler. 

Australia’s Semi-Final XI options

Extra batting depthExtra all-rounder 
David WarnerDavid Warner
Travis HeadTravis Head
Mitchell MarshMitchell Marsh
Steve SmithSteve Smith
Marnus LabuschagneJosh Inglis
Glenn MaxwellGlenn Maxwell
Josh InglisMarcus Stoinis/Cameron Green
Pat CumminsPat Cummins
Mitchell StarcMitchell Starc
Adam ZampaAdam Zampa
Josh HazlewoodJosh Hazlewood

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