Qantas T20 Tour of NZ 2021
The numbers behind Australia's finishing dilemma
Since 2019, the No.5-No.7 batsmen in Australia's T20 side have had at least two overs fewer to bat than the international average
21 February 2021, 01:29 PM AEST
The dominance of Australia's T20 top order may have inadvertently complicated their search for a reliable batting finisher, with numbers revealing Australia's middle order are exposed to 30 per cent less deliveries than the international average.
The discrepancy between balls faced by Australia's ultra-consistent top order and those who bat lower down is the biggest in the international game, which has exacerbated the long-running struggle to nail down middle order spots.
Since the start of 2019, Australia's top four – led by David Warner, Aaron Finch, Steve Smith and Glenn Maxwell – have scored runs at a higher combined average and strike rate than the top orders of the other 10 highest-ranked T20 sides.
In a remarkably consistent run given the high-risk nature of T20 cricket, Australia have lost more than two wickets in the first 10 overs of an innings only once in 16 games, and lost more than three wickets inside the first 15 overs on only three occasions.
Statistics from Opta show that, on average, Australia's No.5 batter comes to the middle with 44 balls remaining in the innings, 13 deliveries later than the average No.5 of other nations.
Australia lose their fourth wicket with 29 balls left, compared to the international average of 44 balls, and are five down with just 19 balls to go compared to the international average of 32.
In short, Australia's No.5-No.7 batsmen have at least two overs fewer to bat than their international counterparts.
Selectors have often been criticised for picking openers out of position in the T20 side, but having more traditional batsmen like Marcus Stoinis or Alex Carey can be useful at No.5 or No.6 if the top order is misfiring.
But the dominance of Australia's top four means those behind them have normally required a different skillset.
The possible return of Ashton Turner at No.6 for Australia's current five-match tour of New Zealand could be a sign of redressing the issue, with the Scorchers skipper one of the most damaging late-innings batters in this summer's KFC BBL.
Turner had a strike rate of 152 in BBL|10, and his average balls per innings of 11.5 is similar to what Australia's No.6 has faced in the past two years.
"I've spent my whole career batting in the middle order for various teams, whether it's for Western Australia or in the Big Bash for the Perth Scorchers or when I've got to play for Australia," Turner said last week.
"It's certainly the role I feel the most comfortable playing. I feel like if selected I've got the skills and I feel like I'm playing well enough to do a good job for the team."
Scorchers teammate Mitch Marsh (who had a strike rate of 147.9 in BBL|10 and faced an average of 15.2 balls per innings) could also get a chance in the series against the Black Caps.
However, the best Big Bash finishers have been overlooked.
Sydney Sixers allrounder Dan Christian (strike rate 182.6, average balls per innings 10.6) is streets ahead of the pack based on his BBL|10 numbers, while Ben Cutting (strike rate 156.4, average balls per innings 13.8) scored more runs in the last five overs of the innings that any other player, although the BBL's Power Surge can skew the numbers compared to other T20 cricket.
Both players were picked up at this week's IPL auction.
A wildcard at No.6 could be Sydney Thunder allrounder Daniel Sams, who overcame a horror BBL|09 with the bat to finish BBL|10 with a strike rate of 188.7 from an average of 13.3 balls per innings.
And inexperienced Hobart Hurricanes big hitter Tim David (strike rate 153.3, average balls per innings 13) also had a breakout campaign in the finisher role.
Australia's strong top order has allowed them to essentially pick five frontline bowlers in their side in the past two years given they haven't needed much batting input from their No.7, with Ashton Agar set to resume that role against the Black Caps.
The first of five T20s is on Monday night.
T20 Internationals since 2019
Average score at the loss of the third wicket
Australia: 3-106 from 12.4 overs
Other 10 highest-ranked T20 sides: 3-85 from 10.3 overs
Average score at the loss of the fourth wicket
Australia: 4-126 from 15.1 overs
Other 10 highest-ranked T20 sides: 4-101 from 12.4 overs
Average score at the loss of the fifth wicket
Australia: 3-137 from 16.5 overs
Other 10 highest-ranked T20 sides: 5-115 from 14.4 overs
Australia's No.5 & No.6 batsmen since 2019: Alex Carey, Ashton Turner, Mitch Marsh, Moises Henriques, Marcus Stoinis, Steve Smith, Matthew Wade, Peter Handscomb, Glenn Maxwell, D’Arcy Short
Qantas T20I tour of New Zealand 2021
Australia squad: Aaron Finch (c), Ashton Agar, Jason Behrendorff, Mitchell Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Ben McDermott, Riley Meredith, Josh Philippe, Jhye Richardson, Kane Richardson, Daniel Sams, Tanveer Sangha, D'Arcy Short, Marcus Stoinis, Ashton Turner, Andrew Tye, Matthew Wade, Adam Zampa.
New Zealand squad: Kane Williamson (c), Hamish Bennett, Trent Boult, Mark Chapman, Devon Conway, *Martin Guptill (pending fitness test), Kyle Jamieson, Jimmy Neesham, Glenn Phillips, Mitchell Santner, Tim Seifert (wk), Ish Sodhi, Tim Southee. *Finn Allen (on stand-by for Guptill)
All matches will be shown live in Australia on Fox Cricket and Kayo