How Agar hopes to avoid another Cup heartache

West Australian hopes experience bowling with Adam Zampa works in his favour at this year's 50-over showpiece

Having already been sidelined during one World Cup triumph, Ashton Agar hopes his strong bond with Adam Zampa can help him surge into a more permanent ODI role to ensure he does not miss out on a second.  

Agar will depart South Africa following Tuesday evening's (AEST) third ODI in Potchefstroom, jetting back to Perth for the birth of his first child. He is expected to return for a three-match ODI campaign in India that precedes the main tournament.

The left-armer has been around Australia's white-ball sides for the past eight years, yet only three of his 69 international limited-overs matches have come at World Cups (one each at the 2016, 2021 and 2022 T20 events) as Zampa has established himself as the frontline spinner.

"Everyone just wants to play World Cups – they're the biggest things in the white-ball calendar. They're the highest pressure, best standard of cricket, big crowds – that's what you want," Agar told "The more experienced you get, you realise that's what you want to play for."

It is why Agar is desperate to cement a regular place at next month's quadrennial 50-over event alongside Zampa.

Agar has played only one ODI without Zampa in the team since the start of 2020 // Getty

Agar was particularly unlucky to only play one match in Australia's 2021 T20 title run in the UAE. The allrounder had formed a strong one-two punch with Zampa in the preceding years, but the side pivoted to playing only four bowlers and relying on allrounders to make up overs. 

It was a shrewd strategic move; the extra batting got them out of jail in their semi-final win over Pakistan, while Glenn Maxwell, Marcus Stoinis and Mitch Marsh proved capable of the extra responsibility with the ball.

Despite being one of only two specialist spinners in a 15-player squad in a country where multiple spin options are generally considered a must, Agar again must make a case for regular inclusion as the Aussies consider how best to balance their XI.

The 29-year-old has played exactly a third of Australia's 39 one-dayers since the start of 2020. Only one of those 13 matches (out of his 22 career ODIs) has come without Zampa in the team.

The fact Agar has not batted higher than No.7 in an ODI during the past 24 month highlights the increasing reliance with the ball Australia are placing on a group of allrounders which now also includes Cameron Green.

That Agar, despite scoring 48no from No.9 in a match-winning 112-run partnership with Marnus Labuschagne in addition to a tidy bowling return of 1-40 from nine overs in the first ODI against South Africa, was rotated out of the side for the ensuing match when Australia plumped for an extra batter highlights the challenge he faces.

The Western Australian says he is up for it.

"I can't wait to play with Zamps in that World Cup," Agar, speaking before the South Africa tour, said. "We're ripe for it, we're pretty experienced now, we've played a lot of games together.

"When we play together, we usually have a pretty good impact on the game. We just know each other so well, we're good friends, we just know what to do out there and we communicate nicely. We seem to complement each other with our skillsets.

"We'll just see what happens. It's hard for me to be honest. I've gone on a lot of tours, but only play every now and then. That's a difficult one, but I deal with that pretty well.

"It's about just being ready to play when you get called upon. There's no warming up, you've just got to get straight into it and do as well as you can."

Only three of Agar's 69 international limited-overs matches have come at World Cups // Getty

Given Zampa, ODI cricket's most prolific bowler among those competing in this year's World Cup since the 2019 event in the UK, looks unlikely to be displaced, batting performances like Agar's in the opening South Africa ODI could be important to firming up a position in India.

His innings marked just his third score above 30 in his ODI career, a statistic that must be qualified by pointing out the left-hander has batted above No.8 only five times in his ODI career.

"It's a pretty tough spot to bat, it's probably the hardest place to bat. You come in and sometimes you might have to hold out for a little bit and then go, sometimes you have to go straightaway," he said.

"You can be on a bit of a hiding to nothing sometimes. But I think that's why it's such an important spot, because you can have a big impact on the game down there.

"It's about finding different ways to improve your power-hitting or your ability to rotate the strike really quickly when you get in so you don't soak up many balls, and also to read situations of the game.

"I think that's probably the most important one, to work out what's required of you in that situation and execute.

"I don't know what a good percentage for execution would be, but it'd be surprisingly low, because it's quite difficult down there, but something to work towards."

Australia's 2023 ODI World Cup fixtures

Warm-up match: September 30: v Netherlands, Thiruvananthapuram (D/N), 7.30pm AEDT

Warm-up match: October 3: v Pakistan, Hyderabad (D/N), 7.30pm AEDT

October 8: v India, Chennai (D/N), 7.30pm AEDT

October 12: v South Africa, Lucknow (D/N), 7.30pm AEDT

October 16: v Sri Lanka, Lucknow (D/N), 7.30pm AEDT

October 20: v Pakistan, Bengaluru (D/N), 7.30pm AEDT

October 25: v Netherlands, Delhi (D/N), 7.30pm AEDT

October 28: v New Zealand, Dharamsala, 4pm AEDT

November 4: v England, Ahmedabad (D/N), 7.30pm AEDT

November 7: v Afghanistan, Mumbai (D/N), 7.30pm AEDT

November 11: v Bangladesh, Pune, 4pm AEDT

November 15: First semi-final, Mumbai (D/N), 7.30pm AEDT

November 16: Second semi-final, Kolkata (D/N), 7.30pm AEDT

November 19: Final, Ahmedabad (D/N), 7.30pm AEDT

Australia squad: Pat Cummins (c), Sean Abbott, Ashton Agar, Alex Carey, Cameron Green, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Josh Inglis, Mitchell Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Marcus Stoinis, David Warner, Adam Zampa

*Can be changed up until September 28