The Australian team is breathing a little easier following the comfortable defeat of Ireland in their first game of the ICC World Twenty20 Championship.
It may not tell us much about Australia’s chances for the event, but it has at least set the ship on a steady course.
A 'Scary' matcH
No one seriously doubted that they would win what some would describe as a ‘scary’ game. That is, one that you know that you should win, but should you be a little off your ‘A’ game, you could lose.
Australia’s record in T20 to date is well below par, so Mickey Arthur, George Bailey and Co. have set themselves to change that reality. The preparation for the event has been single-minded and the lead up has given them the ideal opportunity to be at their best.
To have begun so positively will send the message to the other teams that Australia has turned up to play and they will be a handful, particularly if the conditions continue to offer pace and bounce as they did at Premadasa Stadium in this game.
The raw materials are there
While the Australian record in T20 is not great, the raw material is there for them to succeed at the shortest form of the game.
Shane Watson showed why he is potentially the best cricketer in the world in T20. He opened the bowling, swung the ball in the humid conditions, took wickets and then strode out at the top of the order and made light work of the target with his powerful blows. If he continues in that form, Australia will be a significant contender.
Dave Warner is another who will be important to the Australian cause. Along with Watson, he completes a powerful opening combination which will go a long way to deciding how far the Australians can go in this event. If they succeed at the top of the order, Australia will be hard to beat.
Michael Hussey continues to be one of the best performers in this demanding format. He has the ability to work the ball around and run hard, but also has the power to clear the ropes in the later overs. If Watson and Warner can provide regular foundations, Hussey will provide the polish and the finish.
White can be dangerous and is regaining some touch and Bailey is growing in confidence with each outing. With new-boy Maxwell, Wade and Christian, the middle order has some punch and Pat Cummins has the potential to be an all-rounder of some note, so the batting is solid enough to get, or chase down, big scores.
The bowling then will be critical to any success. Watson we know about, but Starc has the potential to be the surprise packet of the tournament. Having been blooded steadily over the past few years, he looks ready to step up. At 196 cm, he gets the ball to bounce awkwardly at pace and he has the ability to swing the ball. That he is left handed completes an enviable package and provides a good foil for Watson.
Cummins is a potential superstar. It is hard to grasp that he is only a few months past his 19th birthday and could have played in the recently completed Under 19 Cricket World Cup.
Patrick, at 192cm tall, is deceptively fast and has control over a full range of deliveries. On top of that, he loves to compete, is good in the field and has enough ability to bat in the top seven eventually. He could be this century’s answer to the great all-rounder of the last century, the mercurial and insouciant Keith Miller.
Daniel Christian’s mixed bag of medium pace deliveries along with Bradley Hogg’s left-arm wrist spin make up the five front-line bowlers. Glenn Maxwell will offer support with his right-arm off-spin and Michael Hussey can get through a few overs if required.
If, as expected, the wickets get lower, slower and begin to turn as the tournament progresses, Dave Hussey with his mix of spin and batting may well be an alternate option to Christian. David Warner might even be considered for an over or two with his leg spin.
The Windies - the outside contenders
Now that the scary game is out of the way, the Australians will get down to business as normal as they take on a full strength West Indies that must be one of the outside chances of winning the championship.
A batting line-up boasting the power of Chris Gayle, Marlon Samuels, Kieron Pollard, Dwayne Smith and Dwayne Bravo allied with a good mix of pace and spin, including the exciting off-spinner, Sunil Narine, will surely cause opposition teams problems in this tournament.
Provided West Indies can get past Ireland in the group match, the result between Australia and West Indies on Saturday will not count other than for bragging rights and confidence, but it could be important depending on who finishes where in group ‘A’ going into the Super Eight Stage.
There, England or India will be the opponent so that will be when the tournament proper gets underway.