Aussie bowlers fast becoming middle-overs masters

Ability of Zampa and co to 'suffocate' a batting line-up through crucial period has been a key to success

With two World Cup titles to their name in the past three years, it's no secret that this Australia squad has a knack of delivering in the big games.

A key to their imposing record has been their bowlers' effectiveness during the middle overs of an innings, often the toughest time to contain and to take wickets, in both 50-over and 20-over cricket.

It was a decisive factor again in Australia's 36-run win over England in Barbados on Sunday morning (AEST) with Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins and Adam Zampa displaying their exceptional limiting skills.

Wind back the clock eight months, where Australia outplayed India with a skilful, tactical masterclass with the ball in the ODI World Cup final in November, conceding only two boundaries in the 31 overs that followed the Powerplay.

India were left "20-30 runs" short, according to their captain Rohit Sharma, despite the Australians bowling in the oppressive Gujarati heat. 

'It's time to stand up': Zampa feels backed for big moments

And it was the case again in Barbados, albeit in a different format, with the same bowling attack of Mitch Starc, Hazlewood, Cummins, Zampa and Glenn Maxwell – along with allrounder Marcus Stoinis – showcasing just how difficult it is to succeed against this group when the Powerplay ends.

Head coach Andrew McDonald said an understanding of conditions was a major factor in being able to adjust, execute and defend their score against their Ashes rivals.

"Over time, our bowling has been our strength," McDonald told reporters on Monday.

"The way they operate together, the know each other's games, they're really clear on their planning going in – we were well planned for that game.

"You always get the benefit bowling second of seeing what the conditions are like for the team bowling first … we were then able to identify key parts that were working."

Match Wrap | Aussies sink England in scintillating display

Aussie opener Travis Head agreed, saying that Australia's batters were able to collect valuable information on the fresh Kensington Oval pitch after England captain Jos Buttler chose to bowl.

"When you're talking to the bowlers and you're talking about what lengths and what plans we want to go with, I think it suits those guys really, really well," Head told reporters after the England match.

"Zamps is stump to stump, Cummo (is) change of pace, top of the stumps and Stoin can do things in the middle as well."

Leg-spinner Zampa proved the match winner, taking the wickets of both England openers to be named player of the match for his 2-28.

Although England raced out of the blocks to be 0-73 after seven overs, Head says Australia never panicked knowing they had the ultra-reliable Zampa to turn to.

"Yes, they got off to a good start, but we felt like from (overs) seven to 13-14 we were able to suffocate them," Head said. "Zamps is obviously a huge contributor to that.

"It's important the spinners get wickets in the middle, (and) he's bound to do that, but I feel like if he's not getting wickets he's creating pressure for someone else at the other end."

Although both teams scored roughly the same amount of runs in the middle portion of their respective innings, Australia took five wickets in that period to England's two.

It left the Aussie batters with the room to go hard in the final 'death' overs of the innings while the best English hitters had already been dismissed.

Hazlewood, after conceding 0-21 from his first two overs (bowled in the Powerplay), returned to take 1-8 in his next two, at a stage of the game when England should have been accelerating.

Cummins too, was integral in pegging back England, taking 2-8 in his final two overs.

Stoinis (1-24) was able to follow on his stellar three-wicket performance from the Oman game with three more tidy overs.

I thought Josh Hazlewood bowling to the difficult end, he always stands up," McDonald said.

"Patty Cummins, his evolution as a T20 player, the more games he plays (the more he) is really impressive, and Adam Zampa, he's arguably one of our best white-ball bowlers ever, across ODI cricket and T20 cricket. He stood up when we needed him to.

"And Marcus Stoinis was very impressive – that sixth over in particular to shut out our Powerplay under huge pressure, that was a big over in the game, and also the 11th when we got the wicket."

2024 ICC Men's T20 World Cup

Australia's squad: Mitch Marsh (c), Ashton Agar, Pat Cummins, Tim David, Nathan Ellis, Cameron Green, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Josh Inglis, Glenn Maxwell, Mitchell Starc, Marcus Stoinis, Matthew Wade, David Warner, Adam Zampa

Australia's Group B fixtures

June 6: Defeated Oman by 39 runs

June 9: Defeated England by 36 runs

June 12: v Namibia, Sir Vivian Richards Stadium, Antigua, 10.30am AEST

June 16: v Scotland, Daren Sammy Stadium, St Lucia, 10.30am AEST

Super Eights, finals to follow if Australia qualify

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