Australia’s woes in the shortest format of the game continued as the side slumped to a 0-5 whitewash in the recently concluded series against England. In the absence of two of their biggest stalwarts Steven Smith and David Warner, the Tim Paine-led team looked hapless and listless to succumb to their fourth overseas loss away from home consecutively – the first time this happened in their cricketing history.
Here are the 5 things we learnt from the series.
Confidence plays a huge role in the game
If anything, the series only reemphasised how confidence can go a long way in the competitive arena of sport. Jos Buttler, who had been pulled out of the IPL after his brilliant run of form so he could play in the Tests against Pakistan, had shown that the format matters for little if self-confidence and the ability to stay calm under pressure on the crease is intact. After scoring two consecutive fifties in the Test series, the wicket-keeper carried on his form into the ODIs as well, scoring 9, 91*, 11, 54*, 110* in the series. In the last game, he played what one can call an un-Buttler like innings, making 110 from 122 balls. After his team had crashed to 27 for 4 and then 86 for 6, Buttler displayed maturity and character to take his side over the finish line.
Not only Buttler, but the whole team exhibited this calmness in pressure situations in the series. In the second game, after the English side had posted 342 on the board, Shaun Marsh caused some flutters by taking his side close to the target. However, the bowlers, especially Liam Plunkett kept his nerves to restrict the Aussies, registering a comfortable win in the end.
The visitors, on the other hand, showed how the reverse also holds the fort. Lack of confidence, leading to a number of experimentations, for example, dropping Aaron Finch down the order or muddling with the batting order throughout, shows a defensive approach and their poor form in the format, resulting out of lack of belief, was evident.
Australia’s woes continue in the ODIs
A lot has been written and spoken about the poor run by the Australian cricket team in the 50 overs in the last year or so. Series losses against South Africa, New Zealand, India, and twice against England, including an early exit in the Champions Trophy, shows that something is terribly wrong for the side. They have lost 16 of their last 18 games in the format, including four overseas losses away from home – making it their worst losing streak in the history of the game.
They have looked unsettled, be it on the field or while selecting their squads. The lack of a wrist-spinner in the series, even though England have struggled against them, reeked of ignorance and the constant shuffling of the order – picking and then dropping D Arcy Short or Michael Neser – showed impatience and the desperate urge to get their act together. Though injuries have plagued them, Australia need to get the ball rolling, considering the World Cup is less than a year away.
England dish out tracks according to their strengths
The England cricket team, after getting ousted in the early stages of the World Cup in 2015, identified their strengths and started preparations for 2019 according to that. Their biggest positive was the number of big-hitting match-winners in their arsenal and the journey to redemption began with the preparation of flat tracks that suited their style of play.
Three of the five games had one team crossing the 300-run mark, and the only time that this did not bear fruit was when Australia batted first. England have shown signs of collapsing when the track has low bounce and help for the spinners, and by dishing out placid tracks, away from the traditional seaming wickets that were found before in the land, England have been wise to play and prepare according to what suits them best.
Finch and Marsh remains Australia’s only positives
In a battle that was defined by inconsistencies on the part of the Kangaroos, the only bright spots were the form of Marsh and Finch. Marsh, who was returning to the side after more than a year scored his first ton in the format since 2013, by blazing away to 131 in the second game. He ended with yet another hundred in the fourth ODI, to go with Finch’s ton, making him a sure-shot selection for the next few series at least.
Finch showed that the opening spot is the role that suits him best, as he raced away to a knock of 100 in 106 balls after he had been pushed back up the order in the fourth ODI. In order to accommodate Short at the top, Finch had been pushed down in the middle order, but the experiment failed. Paine has the option of trying out Marsh and Finch at the top as well, till Warner’s return.
Australia’s wobbly middle-order and troubles against spin
While Finch, Marsh and to an extent Travis Head tried to steady the sinking Australian ship, the middle-order led by Marcus Stoinis, Paine himself and Glenn Maxwell failed to find any sort of momentum. The move to play Ashton Agar, a bits-and-pieces cricketer above Alex Carey remained baffling, and the inability of the few players to tackle Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid was evident.
Inept at handling the slower balls and the googlies, the Aussies struggled majorly and they have a tough task ahead if they are keen to change their fortunes.