Qantas Tour of NZ 2018
T20I bats face tussle for top-order spots
Big Bash blasters face tricky proposition to unseat incumbents as Australia's T20I tri-series looms
24 January 2018, 02:28 PM AEST
Australia's T20I captain David Warner will be presented with a difficult challenge before a ball is even bowled in the upcoming Gillette T20 Tri-Series against England and New Zealand, beginning on February 3 in Sydney.
As skipper of the side, Warner is tasked with selecting the batting order, and the idea of squeezing just two players into the opening slots appears a problem with no perfect solution.
That's because there are up to six members of Australia’s 14-man squad who present a compelling case that their best work is done at the top of the order.
And when it comes to D'Arcy Short, the Hobart Hurricanes opener who this summer has become the first player to topple the 500 runs barrier in a single KFC Big Bash tournament, former Australia batsman Mike Hussey believes the argument could be strong enough to see either Warner himself, or his regular opening partner Aaron Finch, shuffle down to No.3.
Despite those two players being among the best opening batsmen in the world in 20-over cricket.
"It's a scary team really, when you think about it – I wouldn't like to be a bowler bowling to these guys," Hussey told The Unplayable Podcast.
"It's going to be interesting to see what the batting order looks like. You've got Warner and Finch, and you've got to think D'Arcy Short would have to slide in there somewhere as well.
"I don't know what they're going to do. D'Arcy Short has just been incredible at the top of the order throughout the Big Bash.
"I know it's not a big change going from an opener to No.3, but it is different – you're sitting there waiting, and you might not come in until the fifth or sixth over. And he's just been so effective throughout that batting power play.
"I know those other names are amazing players, but it's almost like he needs that opportunity, D'Arcy Short, so perhaps Warner or Finch might go down to No.3."
Warner was experimented with at No.3 and No.4 in 2016 in order to solve a similar predicament following the stunning form of Usman Khawaja in BBL|05, with the latter's hot streak demanding a spot at the top of the order for the 2016 World T20.
But the current skipper only batted seven times in the middle order before reverting to the opening role, where he’s played most of his career in all three forms of the game.
Finch also spent time in the middle order in 2016, though in the IPL with Gujarat Lions; with Australia, 31 of his 33 innings have come at the top of the order.
Complicating matters further is the presence of Big Bash blaster Chris Lynn, who has this season been pushed up to opener and is, according to Hussey, the most dangerous batter of the lot.
"It's been a shame not to have him as part of the Big Bash or the one-day team for Australia due to those injuries," Hussey said of Lynn, who returned from a calf strain today in some practice matches with Brisbane Heat, spending some valuable time in the middle ahead of their final match of the regular season on Saturday.
"We've spoken about these hitters … I think Chris Lynn is better than all those guys in terms of pure ball-striking ability.
"That's a big call, I know, but he's got no fear as well. He literally comes out and starts swinging from ball one. He connects so consistently, and when he connects they go out of the park.
"He's an incredible talent and he seems to thrive on the expectation that he'll hit the ball out of the park.
"Let's hope he can get over these injuries, get some good practice in and find a bit of form. Because if he gets going, he's unstoppable."
Hussey also pointed out that, along with wicketkeeper-batsman Alex Carey – who has had spectacular success opening with Adelaide Strikers this summer – the enigmatic Glenn Maxwell has benefited in the past from the freedom that comes with opening the innings in terms of fielding restrictions, a hard new ball and a license to thrill from the opening delivery.
"You've got to remember as well, with Glenn Maxwell, he made a hundred against Sri Lanka batting at the top of the order," he added, referring to Maxwell's stunning blitz of 145 from just 65 balls in September 2016.
"So they're all going to want to be batting at the top – they might have to flip a coin to see who's up there."
Speaking on Network Ten’s commentary during Tuesday night's BBL match, national coach Darren Lehmann echoed Hussey's sentiment – to a point.
"Obviously the captain will work that (batting order) out," Lehmann said. "But I imagine (Short would) bat at the top, top three – somewhere around there. He's been so good in the BBL at the top of the order.
"The skipper will sit down with the players and work out where he's going to bat him. It's an exciting order.
"I see D'Arcy as one of those explosive players. You've got Lynn, Maxwell, Finch, Warner … Carey, (Travis) Head – all those guys can play a variety of roles for us."
T20I SQUAD: David Warner (c), Aaron Finch (vc), Ashton Agar, Alex Carey, Ben Dwarshuis, Travis Head, Chris Lynn, Glenn Maxwell, Kane Richardson, D'Arcy Short, Billy Stanlake, Marcus Stoinis, Andrew Tye, Adam Zampa.
Possible XI: Warner (c), Finch, Short, Lynn, Maxwell, Carey (wk), Stoinis, Agar, Richardson, Tye, Stanlake
2017-18 International Fixtures
Gillette ODI Series v England
Australia ODI squad: Steve Smith (c), David Warner (vc), Pat Cummins, Aaron Finch, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Mitchell Marsh, Tim Paine, Jhye Richardson, Mitchell Starc, Marcus Stoinis, Andrew Tye, Cameron White, Adam Zampa.
England ODI squad: Eoin Morgan (c), Moeen Ali, Jonny Bairstow, Jake Ball, Sam Billings, Jos Buttler, Tom Curran, Alex Hales, Dawid Malan, Liam Plunkett, Adil Rashid, Joe Root, Jason Roy, David Willey, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood.
First ODI England won by five wickets at the MCG
Second ODI England won by four wickets at the Gabba
Third ODI England won by 16 runs at the SCG
Fourth ODI Adelaide Oval, January 26. Tickets
Fifth ODI Perth Stadium, January 28. Tickets
Prime Minister's XI
PM's XI v England Manuka Oval, February 2. Tickets
Gillette T20 trans-Tasman Tri-Series
Australia T20 squad: David Warner (c), Aaron Finch (vc), Ashton Agar, Alex Carey, Ben Dwarshuis, Travis Head, Chris Lynn, Glenn Maxwell, Kane Richardson, D'Arcy Short, Billy Stanlake, Marcus Stoinis, Andrew Tye, Adam Zampa.
England T20 squad: Eoin Morgan (c), Sam Billings, Jos Buttler, Tom Curran, Liam Dawson, Alex Hales, Chris Jordan, Dawid Malan, Liam Plunkett, Adil Rashid, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes, James Vince, David Willey, Mark Wood.
First T20I Australia v NZ, SCG, February 3. Tickets
Second T20I Australia v England, Blundstone Arena, February 7. Tickets
Third T20I Australia v England, MCG, February 10. Tickets
Fourth T20I NZ v England, Wellington, February 14
Fifth T20I NZ v Australia, Eden Park, February 16
Sixth T20I NZ v England, Seddon Park, February 18
Final TBC, Eden Park, February 21