McDermott's chance to shine and effectiveness of five-bowler strategy

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McDermott's chance to shine and effectiveness of five-bowler strategy
© AFP/Getty Images Ben McDermott will open the batting in the series opener against Sri Lanka © AFP/Getty Images

On Friday, Australia play their first T20I since claiming the men’s World Cup title last November and it is just nine months until the next tournament. Although there may be some rest and rotation ahead of the event the early indications are that the squad is likely to be very similar. But there are some areas to consider.

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Reserve batters

There is a good chance that the top seven (or, in fact, the entire XI) that faced New Zealand in the final in Dubai is the same when they face New Zealand at the SCG on October 22. However, nothing is certain. The series against Sri Lanka has thrown up a couple of natural vacancies with David Warner and Mitchell Marsh rested. That meant a chance for Ben McDermott to build on his superb BBL for Hobart Hurricanes where he was the tournament’s leading run-scorer and a first opportunity for Josh Inglis at No. 3. It is likely that there will only be room for one spare batter in the World Cup squad and Inglis, who was also the wicketkeeping reserve, had the role in the UAE. However, McDermott is also a wicketkeeper, taking the role for Hurricanes in the BBL ahead of Matthew Wade, and could push himself into that spot. One factor working in Inglis’ favour is his versatility with him seen as someone who could bat anywhere in the top seven.

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“Josh Inglis has been someone who has been shuffled around the order a little bit,” Aaron Finch said. “[His selection] is a sign of how well he’s played over the last couple of years, but also how great he was around the group at the T20 World Cup. He hasn’t got the runs he would have liked throughout the Big Bash as he has done in the past. But he was playing slightly different roles. So it’s a great opportunity for him.”

It might not just be between those two, either, although having cover for Wade could be important. Moises Henriques is also part of this squad, a somewhat unexpected opportunity after his struggles in West Indies and Bangladesh, and while there isn’t a lot of time for anyone else to force their way into contention, the likes of Josh Philippe (another keeper-batter) and Ashton Turner may yet be talked about. 

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Balance of the side

After clinging to the plan of five specialist bowlers for so long, they changed things for the T20 World Cup with four frontline bowlers, seven batters and a trust in the allrounders to fill in the overs. Midway through the tournament they reverted and were thrashed by England before correcting the mistake just in time. What needs to be pondered now – or over the next few months – is whether that is the same balance that will work at home in October. It certainly appeared to let the top order play with a greater degree of freedom while they largely got through with a combination of Marsh, Marcus Stoinis and Glenn Maxwell as the fifth bowler. Wade, who came off as a finisher in spectacular style against Pakistan in the semi-final, will continue in the No. 7 position when they go with the four-bowler option.

The interesting player in all this is left-arm spinner Ashton Agar, who has been forced out of the side having become a central figure. His only way back would appear to be if five bowlers are selected because Australia will want three frontline quicks on home soil. The size of the grounds could come into his favour with the bigger playing areas offering more scope for the spinners. However, it never felt like he was able to convince as a No. 7.

“It just comes down to the conditions, the opposition but we’ve also got to stay true to what’s our best XI,” Finch said. “I think Ashton Agar has got a really important role to play going forward. He was bitterly disappointed to miss out for most of the games at the World Cup, and rightfully so. He’d done a wonderful job. It wasn’t the fact that he was dropped, it was just a change of strategy with the side. He’s still got a massive job to play for the Australian team.”

McDermott's chance to shine and effectiveness of five-bowler strategy
© Associated Press Kane Richardson is one of the fast bowlers in the squad waiting for an opportunity to prove his mettle © Associated Press

Quick-bowling depth

Having not played a T20I together before the last World Cup, Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood were not separated during the tournament. With a heavy schedule coming up they may not play too many more matches together before the next tournament but will start the series against Sri Lanka at the SCG. Beyond them, there’s a pair of Richardsons – Kane and Jhye – waiting for their chance. Neither of them have played a T20I since last year’s tour of New Zealand although Kane Richardson was part of last year’s World Cup squad. He had a solid season for Melbourne Renegades before missing the back end of the competition while Jhye Richardson appeared for Perth Scorchers in the BBL finals and impressed with the new ball.

Daniel Sams is now also part of this T20 squad although provides more all-round cover. Others on the fringes may include Nathan Ellis, who was a travelling reserve at the World Cup along with Sams after taking a hat-trick on his debut but had an injury-hit BBL, and Sean Abbott ,who is  lucky not to have played more international cricket.

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