Defending champions alive again and dreaming of a sixth title
Fraught does not even begin to cover Australia’s lead-up to their Cricket World Cup title defence in England.
Victors on home soil four years ago, Australia have won four of their last five editions of the Cricket World Cup since their triumph in England 20 years ago.
Both on and off the pitch, Australia were on the rocks a year ago – their Cricket World Cup title defence just a pipe dream as they bounced between scandal and bad form.
But the tide has turned and eight ODI wins in a row have seen the Australians gather momentum – beating India and Pakistan in their last two series.
Box-office David Warner is back from his ban and was in supreme form at the IPL, while captain Aaron Finch is likely to open with him.
Australia could not have come into form at a better time – and with a strong, balanced squad, Finch’s side have emerged as contenders once again.
Key player: Aaron Finch
With Steve Smith and David Warner banned, Australia needed a new leader to step up and Aaron Finch did so just in time.
The comeback win against India was impressive, but Finch then arrived at centre-stage for the series with Pakistan. He scored 116 and 153* in the first two matches, adding 90, 39 and 53 thereafter.
His big-hitting capabilities were already well-known and the Victorian hit 135 in the opening match of the last World Cup to set Australia on the course for victory.
More recently, he captained Melbourne Renegades to Big Bash League victory before Australia’s success against Indian and Pakistan.
Finch’s form, coupled with David Warner’s return to open the batting with him, means Australia have plenty of cause for optimism.
Others to watch
The excellent form of Aaron Finch and Usman Khawaja raised questions as to whether David Warner would even find a place in the Australian World Cup squad.
Warner answered the questions in perfect style, not only demanding a place at the World Cup but confirming he will be one of the box-office attractions.
The big-hitting southpaw scored 692 runs in 12 innings at the IPL, including eight 50s and one unbeaten century. He averaged 69.20 and boasted a strike rate of 143.86.
After his role in the ball-tampering scandal, and subsequent one-year ban, Warner has plenty to prove and leading them to World Cup success could be the perfect reply.
Glenn Maxwell could be a key figure with bat and ball during this World Cup, having scored 258 runs in his four innings against Pakistan. He hit three half-centuries in those four innings, falling just short of a century with a high score of 98.
Since then, Maxwell has acclimatized to English conditions with some match-winning contributions to Lancashire’s early-season form.
He claimed a five-wicket haul at Lord’s in the County Championship and followed it with eight wickets in six One-Day Cup matches.
Maxwell has continued his form since linking up with the Australia squad too, scoring two half-centuries against New Zealand in the two warm-up matches.
After taking 14 wickets in the series win against India, Cummins was rested for the majority of the series with Pakistan but still took 3-23 in his sole innings.
The rest has clearly worked, however, as he surged back into form in the warm-up matches against New Zealand with figures of 3-36 and 4-32 in the two games he played.
The rangy 26-year-old paceman has 82 wickets in 48 ODIs and his return from the back injury he suffered last year has been a huge boost.
Australia squad for ICC Cricket World Cup 2019
|Aaron Finch (c)||32||Batsman|
|Pat Cummins||26||Bowler (RF)|
|Jason Behrendorff||29||Bowler (LFM)|
|Nathan Coulter-Nile||31||Bowler (RF)|
|Nathan Lyon||31||Bowler (OS)|
|Glenn Maxwell||30||All-rounder (OS)|
|Kane Richardson||28||Bowler (RFM)|
|Mitchell Starc||29||Bowler (LF)|
|Marcus Stoinis||29||All-rounder (RM)|
|Adam Zampa||27||Bowler (LS)|
June 25 – Australia vs England (Lord’s, London)
Australia has recaptured their ODI form in recent series, beating India and Pakistan to remind every body of their prowess in the 50-over game.
The match on June 25 at Lord’s is likely to have a big bearing on the final league table, but it also offers something more than that – a chance for Australia to avenge their 5-0 defeat to England last summer, and also gain a psychological upper hand ahead of the Ashes.
Australia Cricket World Cup 2019 fixtures
|June 1 (D/N)||Afghanistan||County Ground, Bristol|
|June 6||West Indies||Trent Bridge, Nottingham|
|June 9||India||The Oval, London|
|June 12||Pakistan||County Ground, Taunton|
|June 15||Sri Lanka||The Oval, London|
|June 20||Bangladesh||Trent Bridge, Nottingham|
|June 25||England||Lord’s, London|
|June 29 (D/N)||New Zealand||Lord’s, London|
|July 6 (D/N)||South Africa||Old Trafford, Manchester|
Happy to avoid
There is only one team not at the Cricket World Cup to have beaten Australia. Zimbabwe have only beaten Australia twice in ODIs, but the win in Harare in 2014 was a significant one – knocking the Aussies off the top of the ICC ODI rankings. They have beaten Australia on the big stage too, winning at the T20 World Cup back in 2007.
Australia were in miserable ODI form until they won eight matches in a row to come from behind and beat India 3-2, in India, before whitewashing Pakistan in a five-game series in the UAE.
Rocked by their 5-0 series defeat to England last time they were in the country, Australia took some time to recover but captain Aaron Finch led from the front in the UAE. Finch hit two centuries and two half-centuries on his way to 451 runs in the series to ensure Australia heads to this World Cup in red-hot form.
A year ago, Australia appeared to be at their lowest ebb for quite some time – the ball tampering scandal having rocked the country before a humiliating ODI series defeat against England.
Now, however, they are back in red-hot form and have David Warner and Steve Smith back after serving their punishment for ‘Sandpaper-gate’. Australia will not give up their title without a fight and a place in at least in the semi-finals can be expected if they keep their current form up.