Structural flaws in Australia’s World Cup defence exposed in series loss

first_img Pucovski, Burns and Renshaw in Australia squad for Sri Lanka series MS Dhoni guides India home to complete ODI series win in Australia Read more Ellyse Perry scales final frontier with dominant WBBL batting form Share on LinkedIn Share on Messenger The Spin: sign up and get our weekly cricket email. “I honestly believe we should take confidence out of this series. India are a gun side and we got very close to them. We could have won tonight.” Support The Guardian To a degree, Australia coach Justin Langer was right after losing a home one-day series with the scoreline 1-2. His team was competitive despite conceding a gulf to India on paper. They posted scores of 288, 298, and 230, defending the first and losing the others with four balls to spare.But in other ways the series wasn’t that close at all. India was the team in control. Australia’s early three-wicket burst won them the first match, but only just: Rohit Sharma and MS Dhoni looked like chasing it regardless until Dhoni was incorrectly given out. The second and largest chase wasn’t in doubt. The 230 was India’s least convincing win, when Australia gave multiple reprieves to Dhoni and Virat Kohli, the two most effective run-chasers in the game’s history.Irrespective of how the results panned out, each match showed that Australia has substantial structural problems only four months out from the 50-over World Cup. The opening batsmen are the first. In pairing two attacking players like Alex Carey and Aaron Finch, presumably the theory is that they can target the new ball and the fielding restrictions to give an early turbocharge.Except they’ve done exactly the opposite, trying to slowly and carefully build into the innings and pottering about at 2 or 3 runs per over before being dismissed. Taking one’s time at the top is also a legitimate tactic, but if that’s the approach, why pick the most dynamic players to do it, rather than have their muscle available later? Share on Twitter Read more Since you’re here… Spin will be key at the World Cup, with most teams likely to play a couple of specialists. Australia currently can’t play spin and isn’t much good at bowling it. The reluctance to pick more than one spinner also reflects in a shortfall of ready candidates. Adam Zampa has as much ability as anyone but has been left out of these sides more often than he’s been picked. Ditto Nathan Lyon, who has pedigree with the white ball domestically but has never been persisted with internationally. Neither took a wicket in their limited chances this series.Langer took a worldly view about playing such a good Indian side. “They give us really great role models for what we should be aspiring to. As hard as it is to lose, I’ll be amazed if our young guys don’t learn a lot from playing against these guys this summer. There is no better lesson for a young player than to rub shoulders with great players of the game.”This is sensible, and true. But with the 50-over game evolving as it always has, there’s a need to look to the rest of the world in how teams are assembled, not just how they play on the field. Share via Email Topics Read more The upshot is that this team can’t score enough runs: 288 and 298 look good by yesterday’s standards, but were too low on good batting pitches when Australia was in a strong position. Of course it’s possible to win some games defending 250, or 220, or 180. It’s just less likely than it ever was. Players are schooled in acceleration and have lost any reservation about attack, and that will define the coming World Cup.The way England have played for the last couple of years is relentless: a wave of players coming out to drive the pace, each sure of their place in the team and unconcerned with losing their wicket. These are no wild sloggers but controlled hitters. Jonny Bairstow and Jason Roy give way to Alex Hales, to Eoin Morgan, to Jos Buttler, all the way down the order. This is how they rattled up a world-record 481 against Australia less than nine months ago.Finch is this kind of player, and Australia desperately need their captain to rediscover his best. He was outstanding last year until he was picked in Australia’s Test side, then his white-ball form vanished. “He’s got 11 one-day hundreds, he’ll be right,” said Langer. He can have a rest during this Test series, spend a bit more time in his own bed.” And that’s probably what he needs, a rest after a taxing few months. But the intense months of lead-up to the World Cup won’t allow much of it.Equally, the bowling in this series looked piecemeal. Billy Stanlake plays like T20 is his game: outstanding for a couple of early overs, fading thereafter. Peter Siddle was a curious selection that didn’t come off. Jason Behrendorff and Jhye Richardson had their moments, with Richardson knocking over Kohli a couple of times, but both were largely handled fairly comfortably. The Test pace trio of Mitchell Starc, Patrick Cummins and Josh Hazlewood will return, but whether they can click together in the 50-over format is largely untested. features Australia sport India cricket team Australia cricket team That lack of urgency continues through the middle order. Teams can have a lynchpin player: the kind who bats through an innings while rotating the strike and building a score. Shaun Marsh played a gem of this type in Adelaide. But Australia has used three such players in a row: Usman Khawaja, Marsh, and Peter Handscomb. With them at the crease, the run rate has hovered between four and five an over.Late hitting rests entirely on Marcus Stoinis and Glenn Maxwell. Australia’s lower orders have historically offered support with the bat: hitters like John Hastings, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Andy Bichel. But whichever quartet was selected in this series lacked that capacity. Share on Pinterest Share on WhatsApp Share on Facebook Cricket … we have a small favour to ask. More people, like you, are reading and supporting the Guardian’s independent, investigative journalism than ever before. And unlike many news organisations, we made the choice to keep our reporting open for all, regardless of where they live or what they can afford to pay. 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