“With a 1-2 series loss, Australia have a lot to on their plates to resurrect. But with the imminent returns of Smith and Warner, and also returns of their fast bowling trio in the upcoming series, things might be quite different as we approach the World Cup”

Both Australia and India played out a close ODI series to bring curtains to a memorable tour Down Under. However, it will be Indi who will leave the nation the happier team, having not lost any of the three series across formats. The series was up for grabs at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG). Following a close match at Adelaide a few days ago, one expected the series decider to be nothing short of a nail-biting game and until the final over of the match, that is how it turned out.

When you put up just 230 against a quality side like India, nobody will give you a chance to win. However, the Australian bowlers, are a spirited bunch. If India played out their 50 overs sensibly, they were always going to win, but the bowlers made life a tad difficult for them, not just in this match but across all the three matches.

This Australian side is just a mere shadow of their full-strength team. Yes, Australia did not have either Steven Smith nor David Warner, but their bowling attack featured the likes of Jhye Richardson, Jason Benrendroff and Billy Stanlake, who lead Australia’s bowling attack in the absence of the trio of Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cumins. Richardson, especially, was the most impressive of the lot.

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Three out of his six wickets included that of the Indian captain Virat Kohli. But what is more impressive was his economy rate of just 3.73, while bowling against dangerous batsmen of the caliber of Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, MS Dhoni and Kohli himself. He was also Australia’s leading wicket-taker with 6 scalps in the series. His pace, lengths were exceptional. He bowled to the field set for him and did not give the basemen an inch. It will not be much of a surprise if he was included in the Australian ODI squad on a regular basis.

Brhrendroff was unlucky to miss out on the final match, after producing two excellent performances in the previous two matches. While he may have just 3 wickets in the series, he was deadly accurate. He exploited his height well and India are known to be susceptible against left-arm seamers but played the rookie fast bowler with caution. However, he did manage to get the wicket f Dhawan on both occasions, once for a golden duck. He finished with an economy rate of under 5, which in this day and age is a commendable effort. Also, it came against a strong Indian batting line-up, which is all the more an indication how of how well he has bowled. Behrendroff’s injury paved way for Stanlake to come into the final ODI. The lanky fast bowler did not pick up any wicket, but conceded just 49 runs from his 10 overs, again, to the delight of his captain.

Also read: Question mark over Test form, Shaun Marsh lets the bat do the talking in ODIs

While new faces made a name for themselves in the series, there was also a familiar face, who redeemed himself to a certain extent. Many criticised Shaun Marsh for his below-par performances in the Test series. He has turned things around in the ODI series, finishing as the leading run-getter in the series with 224 runs at 74.66. While the Australian team has been going through a slump, Marsh has been their best batsman on the top and has often churned out tough runs under tricky circumstances to give his side some respectability.

Not all of his efforts resulted in a win, Australia will be relieved to learn that at least one of their middle-order batsmen can be relied on under any circumstances. Also, Peter Handscomb has emerged from this series as a gritty batsman in the middle-order, having scored two fifties under pressure. Handscomb had just one fifty from his 8 matches before this series, but he scored 73 in the first match and now at MCG, he managed 58, both of which came in handy especially when Australia were looking for a good score on the board.

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When it comes to Australia’s all-rounders, there is little doubt that Marcus Stoinis is a far better batsman than Mitchell Marsh in the format. After 24 ODI innings, Marsh had 658 runs at 32.90, strike-rate of 94.13, scoring five fifties. Stoinis is already head and shoulders clear of Marsh in that front having scored 807 runs at 42.47and strike-rate of close to 97. he has smashed a century and 5 half-centuries too. However, when it comes to the bowling department, Marsh has an edge.

Marsh at the same stage as Stoinis had 19 wickets at 33.84 and an economy rate of 5.49. While Stoinis might have more wickets (22), his average of 43.31 and economy rate of 6.05 are slightly on a higher side. Given that Stonis has been entrusted with the responsibility at the death, it is understandable as to why he would have a higher economy rate, but when it comes to bowling in the middle-overs (Overs 16 to 40) since the ICC World Cup 2015 he lags behind Marsh. While Marsh enjoys an economy rate of 5.36 and strike-rate of 43.5, Stoinis averages 5.46 every over and picks up a wicket every 52.3 deliveries. Marsh having received many chances, it is only fair that Australia invest in Stoinis a bit more and give him a longer rope. After all, he has slotted in as a No.6 batsman with ease.

With a 1-2 series loss, Australia have a lot to on their plates to resurrect. But with the imminent returns of Smith and Warner, and also returns of their fast bowling trio in the upcoming series, things might be quite different as we approach the World Cup. However, Australia have very few games before the mega event to get their combination right. If they do manage to defend their title despite the odds, we will have no option but to bow to them.

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