Aussies' 'phenomenal power' allows take off at eleventh hour

Australia have found the sweet spot with their middle order combinations after years of searching

'He's playing beautifully': Head hails Stoinis heroics

In a couple of ways, Australia are getting more comfortable with leaving things late at this T20 World Cup. For starters, all but two of their first seven matches at this World Cup begin at the unusually late hour of 8.30pm.

"I've got to time my naps well," Travis Head told reporters in the early hours of Sunday morning over the top of the deafening percussion of a St Lucian band continuing the party that had begun on the Gros Islet streets on Friday evening.

"It's been a challenge the last couple of games, the 8.30 (starts). I probably left my sleep a little bit later in the afternoon and woke up a bit sleepy. So, it might have to be (taking a nap) before midday.

It was past midnight local time when Australia overcame Scotland in their final Group B match // ICC via Getty

"It's got its challenges. You're waiting and clock-watching until 7pm, when you leave for the ground."

After his blazing starts against England (34 off 18 balls) and Namibia (34no from 17), Head's anchoring half-century against Scotland was comparatively sleepy too. Not that his knock was any less effective, as the left-hander set up Australia's biggest run chase at a T20 World Cup since Mike Hussey's famous semi-final hand against Pakistan at the same venue back in 2010.

Australia may still be getting accustomed to their team bus not leaving until around nightfall. What is no longer unfamiliar, however, is their preparedness to delay their run on opposition bowlers.

Chasing 181 to beat Scotland, the Aussies' required run rate climbed to 13.38 runs an over – 87 runs from 39 balls – as an Associate team used to high-stakes moments dreamed of a boilover that would put them through to the Super Eight.

Enter Marcus Stoinis, who, just as he did when he belted 67no off 36 in tough batting conditions against Oman in their tournament opener, timed the assault just about to perfection.

Back-to-back sixes in the 14th over off Michael Leask swung the game in Australia's favour, while Head too read conditions well to use a stiff breeze to hit three sixes off Safyaan Sharif after his sedate start to his innings.

Scotland couldn't recover.

"He was playing beautifully and I was playing that role with him where I stay out there as long as I could, knowing that hopefully my chance would come," Head said of his 80-run stand with Stoinis.

"But with so much power, anything is possible in the last seven-to-eight overs. We got to a stage where it was time to go, and we'd kept the powder dry, and we were able to accelerate through the back end.

Head and Stoinis put on 80 off 44 balls for the fourth wicket // AFP

"There's going to be times when it's going to be done in different ways … it's not always going to be as fluent and not going to be as fast a start. Sometimes it might be slower and we might have to do it a different way. I feel like I can do that and tonight I showed that."

Tim David, with 24no off 14, and Matthew Wade, with 4no off five, put the finishing touches on the chase. In the World Cup so far, Stoinis is striking at 190.24, David at 169.24 and Wade at 140.

It's a luxury for Australia who now have three lower-order batters lurking in the shadows, ready to pounce if the top order doesn't come off.

Stoinis has been close to the player of the tournament so far, even despite him not being thrown the ball against Scotland.

Match Wrap | Stoinis, Head stand firm to spoil Scots surge

"We've got phenomenal power in our middle," said Mitchell Starc.

"When you've got 'Stoin' (Stoinis) and 'TD' (David) and even Wade in the middle there, they haven't had too many things to do the first few games. So, to have a good hit tonight or to get us home with the run rate going up a little bit and maybe being a comparatively a slowish start.

"It was good to get some time into those guys but Stoinis obviously got it done. He got us going in the first game against Oman, against England (hitting 30 off 17), his ball striking in his second half of the innings was phenomenal.

"He's in great touch which is good for us heading into the pointy end."

Australia's late firepower is notable because it hasn't always been a strength of their T20 side.

Between the end of the 2016 T20 World Cup, in which Australia were eliminated at the Super 10s stage, and the start of the 2021 T20 World Cup, the Aussies had limited success finding performers in the tricky positions between five and seven in the batting order.

The 2016 tournament highlighted the importance of late innings 'finishers', with MS Dhoni, Andre Russell and famously Carlos Brathwaite all hitting match-winning knocks.

In 2018, Stoinis was identified as someone who could do the role, despite being one of the Big Bash League's best openers at the time.

Australia's maiden men's T20 title in 2021 showed selectors got the call on Stoinis right, as well as the decision to back in veteran wicketkeeper Wade at No.7.

The pair were instrumental in the opening win over South Africa and then a famous finish in the semi-final against Pakistan.

Big-hitting sensation David has since been added to the mix at No.6, giving teammates a lower order that is now trusted blindly.

"It's a hugely important role through the middle there," said Head. "Through that middle, there's going to be some tricky situations.

"There's so much power there and today for the rate to get to where it was – that's why I felt so comfortable with those guys behind me that as long as we get a few balls into them.

"On these wickets, which are slow and when (Stoinis) is playing so well, he's got so much power, which is hugely important for us. It's nice to see him off to a very good start."

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: Beat Oman by 39 runs

June 9: Beat England by 36 runs

June 12: Beat Namibia by nine wickets

June 16: Beat Scotland by five wickets

Australia's Super Eight fixtures

21 June: v D2, Sir Vivian Richards Stadium, Antigua, 10.30am AEST

23 June: v Afghanistan, Arnos Vale Ground, St Vincent, 10.30am AEST

25 June: v India, Daren Sammy National Cricket Stadium, St Lucia, 12.30am AEST

Semi-finals to follow if Australia qualify

For the full list of fixtures click here. All matches live and exclusive on Prime Video. Sign up here for a 30-day free trial