Gillette ODI Series v New Zealand
Cummins, Starc to return but pressure on Aussie batters
New-ball pair expected back in action for first ODI as captain Aaron Finch puts the heat on Australia's top order to produce the runs in Chappell-Hadlee series
Sam Ferris at the SCG
12 March 2020, 06:16 PM AEST
Australia are yet to finalise their XI for Friday's series opener against New Zealand but captain Aaron Finch expects express pacemen Mitch Starc and Pat Cummins to return to the starting side.
Cummins was rested for Australia's final one-dayer against South Africa last Saturday while Starc missed the clash in Potchefstroom to fly home and watch his wife Alyssa Healy power Australia to the Women's T20 World Cup title at the MCG.
Both are expected to return on their home turf of the SCG, where Australia will be hoping to snap a five-game ODI losing streak stretching back to their final pool match of last year's World Cup.
However, captain Finch says Australia's bowlers are not to blame for his side's one-day woes.
Finch puts the blame on Australia's senior top three batters – himself, David Warner and Steve Smith – for not scoring the bulk of the runs and laying a foundation for an unfamiliar middle order.
"At the end of the day it comes down to the top three and as experienced players – myself, Davey and Steve – haven’t got as many runs as what we should have," Finch told reporters today in Sydney.
"That's where the buck stops. You look at our bowling it's been pretty good. It's been excellent in the powerplay.
"Like most teams around the world, wickets in the middle overs are hard to come by. The teams that take them tend to win a lot more games.
"That's an area we're focusing on and taking that next step from that 260-280 total to really push up and get match-winning totals on the board."
In the past year, Australia have used 12 players in the ODI middle order (4-7), with Starc's one-off pinch-hitting experiment in India excluded.
Gloveman Alex Carey has been the mainstay, playing in all 22 matches and batting predominantly at No.7.
Glenn Maxwell (14 innings) and Marcus Stoinis (11) were regulars in the middle order but have not played since the World Cup semi-final last July due to injury and selection, respectively.
Marnus Labuschagne, fresh off scoring his maiden ODI century last start, looks to have cemented his spot at No.4, while Mitch Marsh and D'Arcy Short played at No.5 and 6 in the South Africa series, with Carey coming at No.7.
That combination appears set to continue as Australia persist with giving their new-look middle order time to gel but they must continue to perform to hold their places.
"We're keen to give them as long as possible," Finch said.
"If you look at our last 20 games that middle order combination hasn't been very stable.
"The fact they haven't played a huge amount of cricket with each other in terms of batting partnerships and just getting to know each other's games a lot better through playing in pressure moments, that will improve as they bat more together.
"At the end the of the day you still need results. You give guys as long as they can to find that balance of forming good partnerships and strong relationships out in the middle.
"But like I said, the top order, we're the ones that need to step up."
In the favour of Marsh and Short in the middle order is their ability to bowl as allrounders.
Australia need overs out of Marsh, Short and Labuschagne as the fifth bowling option if the selectors don't pick five specialist bowlers, which has been the case when left-arm spinner Ashton Agar has played.
But what Finch is after is wickets through the middle overs, which continues to be one of the biggest challenge for captains in ODI cricket.
"The role Mitch, Marnus and D'Arcy can do as that fifth bowler combination is going to be important for the balance of the side," said Finch.
"It's always tough when you don't get wickets through that middle period.
"Our powerplay bowling has been outstanding for the last series (against the Proteas), we took wickets up front, managed to get in their middle order and couldn't finish them off at certain times.
"The fifth bowler, I think teams around the world would find when you go in with an allrounder at No.6 and a couple of part-timers to chip in for that role it can be difficult managing that at times but we've got a lot of confidence in Mitch's bowling along with D'Arcy and Marnus."
Possible Australia XI: Aaron Finch (c), David Warner, Steve Smith, Marnus Labuschagne, D'Arcy Short, Mitch Marsh, Alex Carey (wk), Pat Cummins, Mitch Starc, Adam Zampa, Josh Hazlewood
Gillette ODI Series v New Zealand
Australia squad: Aaron Finch (c), Ashton Agar, Alex Carey (vc), Pat Cummins (vc), Josh Hazlewood, Marnus Labuschagne, Mitch Marsh, Jhye Richardson (SA series only), Kane Richardson, D'Arcy Short, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Matthew Wade, David Warner, Adam Zampa.
New Zealand squad: Kane Williamson (c), Martin Guptill, Henry Nicholls, Ross Taylor, Tom Latham, Tom Blundell, Jimmy Neesham, Colin de Grandhomme, Mitchell Santner, Kyle Jamieson, Ish Sodhi, Matt Henry, Tim Southee, Lockie Ferguson, Trent Boult.