Aussies' all-round depth bodes well for Cup

Selectors have come out of Australia's T20I series against New Zealand with a plethora of options to choose from as attention turns to the World Cup

They might only have been granted a couple of overs each with ball and bat in the rain-affected final T20I against New Zealand today, but top-order batter Matt Short and pace bowlers Nathan Ellis and Spencer Johnson could scarcely have done more to push their respective World Cup claims.

The 3-0 clean sweep of the T20 campaign at a soggy Eden Park, which also delivered Australia the Chappell-Hadlee Trophy, is the team's last collective hit-out before the month-long Cup tournament begins in the Caribbean and USA in June.

It also marked the first time since the 2022 Cup on home soil that Australia have fielded a full-strength line-up that included 'big three' quicks Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood and it underscored the wealth of T20 talent at selectors' fingertips.

Aussies register clean sweep in final T20 World Cup tune-up

While form and fitness through the upcoming Indian Premier League will also dictate the final make-up of the 15-man squad for the Cup which Australia lifted for the sole time in 2021, the need to have ready replacements for every specialist role will also figure prominently in deliberations.

For that reason, Short's dual appeal as a powerful hitter who can bat anywhere in the top six plus bowl handy off-spin overs as he did today, and the pace and control shown by Johnson (1-10) and Ellis (1-11) in their two-over spells as NZ frantically chased a revised target was remarkable.

'Someone will be unlucky': Wade ponders World Cup selection

Ellis has been a regular member of Australia's T20 plans for the past year or more, and as stand-in skipper Matthew Wade noted in the wake of his team's 27-run win today he is a proven performer when given the chance.

Johnson is perhaps at longest odds for selection in the squad given he was a last-minute call-up for this series with all-rounders Marcus Stoinis (back) and Aaron Hardie (calf) injured, but as a back-up for left-armer Starc he has staked a serious claim.

On a venue with short boundaries in what became a 10-over run chase where batters swung with impunity from ball one, for Ellis and Johnson to concede runs at barely five an over underscored their development and value.

And Short was named player of the match for his all-round contribution having belted 27 (off 11 balls) batting at number three and then opening the bowling alongside Starc to remove Black Caps opener Will Young with his fourth delivery.

"We've seen him doing that now for a long period of time," Wade said of Short, who as the BBL's  leading runs scorer for the second consecutive season.

"We know he can come in and play a really high-impact role for us.

Every ball of Spencer Johnson's electric third T20 spell

"His off-spin is going to help as well, so he'll be pushing for a spot in the (World Cup) 15, one hundred per cent.

"It was great to see him come in and do that today again, and Spence has played a couple of games now and ticked every box to be honest.

"Then you've got guys as well like Nathan (Ellis) who come in, every time he gets an opportunity he does really, really well as well.

"It's going to be tight for those last few spots, I don't envy George's (Bailey, selection chair) position.

"I wouldn't want to be picking the 15, there's going to be a couple of unlucky players.

"But as I said there's always injury around, guys that are outside the 15 may get opportunities as well so we're happy we've got so much depth."

Wade described today's all-round bowling effort, as Australia successfully defended 126 off 10 overs with Cummins and Hazlewood running the drinks, "as good as I've ever seen".

He was also impressed by the way Australia began their innings, having been sent into bat in the knowledge rain may play a role in foreshortening the game, with the blazing start from opener Travis Head (33 off 30), Short and Glenn Maxwell (20 off nine) ensuring a rapid run rate when the rain came.

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It was the capacity to strike at furious speed throughout the innings that delivered England World Cup wins in the 50-over (2019) and 20-over (2022) formats, and Wade confirmed Australia had taken deliberate steps towards incorporating that approach into their T20 batting.

Head finished the T20I series as leading runs scorer having played all three games, but it was the his power hitting plus that of opener David Warner, Mitchell Marsh, Maxwell, Tim David, Josh Inglis and Wade down the order that set a template for the upcoming World Cup.

"I saw something the other day that our top seven are all striking pretty much over 140 in last few years," Wade said.

"That intent throughout the whole innings is something we've tried to get in.

"Heady's got the x-factor, you saw in the 50-over World Cup (where he was player of the match in the final), he can turn games so quickly and we're exciting to have him at the top of the order along with Davey (Warner) who's going to be there.

"And then we can load up with Stoinis and David and Maxwell, and all these guys with extreme power.

"It's an exciting time to be in the T20 squad, and I can't wait to get started at the World Cup to be honest."

Wade is confident he will retain his place as preferred keeper in the World Cup starting line-up, even though Inglis played all three matches against NZ – the first with the gloves as Wade remained at home for the arrival of his and wife Julia's third child, and the last two as specialist batter.

Today's stand-in skipper, with player-of-the-series Marsh rested from the final fixture ahead of the two-Test series starting in Wellington on Thursday, Wade pointed to his returns at number seven in the T20 batting order as evidence of his value to the line-up.

But he conceded former skipper Steve Smith might face a struggle to further his claims for the final World Cup squad given he missed out in his two innings opening alongside Head – 11 off seven balls, and four off three today – and won’t be part of the upcoming IPL.

""It's going to be tough to squeeze in that 15, whoever you are," Wade said.

"Obviously Smithy hasn't played a heap of T20 cricket in the last little bit for Australia, and there will be chats around those final few positions in the 15.

'Fingers crossed he makes it, but there's always going to be someone that's unlucky and I'm not sure who that's going to be this time."

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February 21: First T20: Australia win by six wickets with 0 balls to spare

February 23: Second T20: Australia won by 72 runs

February 25: Third T20: Australia win by 27 runs (DLS method)

Australia T20 squad: Mitchell Marsh (c), Pat Cummins, Tim David, Nathan Ellis, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Josh Inglis, Spencer Johnson, Glenn Maxwell, Matt Short, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Matthew Wade, David Warner, Adam Zampa

New Zealand T20 squad: Finn Allen, Devon Conway, Tim Seifert, Rachin Ravindra, Glenn Phillips, Mark Chapman, Josh Clarkson, Mitchell Santner (c), Matt Henry, Ish Sodhi, Lockie Ferguson, Tim Southee, Adam Milne, Trent Boult

February 29 – March 4: First Test, Wellington, 9am AEDT

March 8-12: Second Test, Christchurch, 9am AEDT

Australia Test squad: Pat Cummins (c), Scott Boland, Alex Carey, Cameron Green, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Michael Neser, Matthew Renshaw, Steve Smith (vc), Mitchell Starc

New Zealand Test squad: Tim Southee (c), Tom Blundell (wk), Devon Conway, Matt Henry, Scott Kuggeleijn, Tom Latham, Daryl Mitchell, Will O'Rourke, Glenn Phillips, Rachin Ravindra, Mitchell Santner, Neil Wagner, Kane Williamson, Will Young.