World Cup warm-up matches
Five key lessons from the Cup warm-ups
Australia's protracted six-game World Cup warm-up has answered some questions but raised others ahead of the opening fixture on Saturday
Louis Cameron in Southampton
28 May 2019, 12:08 PM AEST
Steve Smith is still world class
He's back and has a point to prove. Smith was the world's No.1 Test batsman when he was banned for 12 months and has declared he had been unhappy with his 50-over returns in the months leading into the incident that cost him his captaincy. His glorious hundred against England on Saturday, on the back of scores of 89 not out, 91 not out and 75 in other warm-up games, showed he's ready to make his mark on this World Cup. David Warner, on the other hand, has shown glimpses but failed to pass fifty since returning to the national set-up. But the opener showed he too had lost nothing in dominating the Indian Premier League to be the tournament's leading run-scorer despite leaving early and has a terrific ODI record to boot. The pair are vital to Australia's hopes of retaining their crown.
They have a big call to make on their top order
Usman Khawaja and Shaun Marsh both have incumbency and strong recent track records in a team that's won eight official ODIs on the trot and four of their five warm-up matches. But Smith and Warner are two of the best batsmen of their generation and would be walk-up starts for any team at this World Cup. Although Khawaja is this calendar year’s leading ODI run-scorer and no Australian has scored more ODI tons than Marsh over the past 12 months, something has to give and it isn't Smith or Warner.
Unless one of Marcus Stoinis or Glenn Maxwell makes way, only one of Marsh and Khawaja fits into the top six. Khawaja scored a match-winning 89 in Monday's warm-up game against Sri Lanka. While Marsh is only averaging a couple of runs less than Khawaja over the course of the six practice games Australia have played at home and in England in recent weeks, he's been out between 15 and 34 in five of those games. With all this swirling around the heads of Justin Langer and on-duty selector Greg Chappell, whoever misses will consider themselves unlucky.
Spin will play a huge role at the World Cup
Nathan Lyon and Adam Zampa have made it a stated goal to show that fielding dual spinners can be a genuine option in every game. "If you ask me, every side in the world should play two spinners," Lyon insisted on Saturday, while assistant coach Ricky Ponting has identified spin – both bowling it and facing it – as the biggest key to Australia's title defence. It remains to be seen whether Lyon will hold his spot alongside Zampa for their opener against Afghanistan (more on that below). But Australia play West Indies in their second match of the tournament and, as Ponting also noted, they have a bevy of left-handers in their top order, meaning the off-spinner is firmly in the mix to play a major role in this tournament. Also up the Aussies' sleeve are Maxwell, whose off-spin is a far more common sight under Aaron Finch's captaincy, and Smith, whose leg-spin is also a more common sight under Finch's captaincy.
They need to find their third seamer
While Australia have had success with two spinners on the subcontinent during their win streak, conditions in the United Kingdom will be less helpful and Afghanistan are likely to be more comfortable against slow bowling than pace. Their top order looked out of their depth against Jofra Archer in their practice game against England on Monday, which may encourage an Australian attempt to go with out-and-out speed. Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins are locks to play, but the absence of Josh Hazlewood and Jhye Richardson has thrown open the door to the remaining quicks. Jason Behrendorff, Nathan Coulter-Nile and Kane Richardson have all had their moments in recent warm-up games. Behrendorff is a legitimate new-ball threat and being a left-armer gives him a point of difference, while Richardson is rated highly for his death-bowling skills. Coulter-Nile may be the most versatile of the trio, while he's made numerous contributions with the bat in recent months.
Marcus Stoinis is a vital cog
In 2015, pace-bowling allrounders James Faulkner, Shane Watson, Mitch Marsh all had important hands in Australia's World Cup success. Four years on, just one player who can bat in the top six and bowl seam-up has been picked in Australia's squad of 15. It’s a lot of faith to put in one man. Stoinis has managed scores of 15, 15, 13 and 32 from four pre-Cup warm-up matches and the reigning champions will be hoping for more come the tournament proper. They know he's capable – he averages close to 40 in ODI cricket, while his unbeaten 146 in a thrilling defeat to New Zealand two years ago in just his second game will go down as one of the great Australian one-day innings. Given the right-armer has been entrusted with death-bowling duties in recent months, his work with the ball will be equally important.
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2019 World Cup
Australia's squad: Aaron Finch (c), Jason Behrendorff, Alex Carey (wk), Nathan Coulter-Nile, Pat Cummins, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Shaun Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Kane Richardson, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Marcus Stoinis, David Warner, Adam Zampa
May 22: (warm-up) Australia beat West Indies by seven wickets
May 25: (warm-up) Australia beat England by 12 runs
May 27: (warm-up) Australia beat Sri Lanka by five wickets
June 9: India v Australia, The Oval
June 12: Australia v Pakistan, Taunton
June 15: Sri Lanka v Australia, The Oval
June 20: Australia v Bangladesh, Trent Bridge
June 25: England v Australia, Lord's
July 9: Semi-Final 1, Old Trafford
July 11: Semi-Final 2, Edgbaston
July 14: Final, Lord's
For a full list of all World Cup fixtures, click HERE