The sight of Australia winning a game of cricket, these days, is as rare as watching Timo Werner putting the ball on the back of the net, so well done to Alex Carey for making a seemingly arduous task look easy. On that note, why don’t we try something different?
By ‘different’ we’re referring to bringing back the almost-extinct ‘Good, Bad and Ugly’ article which, well, also has been as frequent as an Australia victory. Given the Aussies have now finally won something this year - yes, this was their first series win of 2021 - we figured that this would be the perfect time to bring out the GBU that we’d kept wrapped in cotton wool. Let’s go.
Mitchell Starc is peaking right in time for the World Cup
Surprise, surprise. There’s an ICC event round the corner and Mitchell Starc is suddenly peaking out of nowhere. Who’d have thought, eh? As it turned out, Starc’s impeccable showing towards the back end of the T20I series was no flash in the pan: he piggybacked off that confidence and ran riot in the ODIs, picking 11 wickets across the 3 matches, six (!!) more than any other Aussie bowler. He swung the ball as if he was in the middle of the 2019 World Cup, was not erratic and delivered wickets every time the team needed one, notwithstanding the stage of the match. The five T20Is against Bangladesh will confirm suspicions, but it does look like Starc is slowly getting back to his best.
With Hazlewood also bowling as well as he ever has in white-ball cricket, this bodes well for Australia heading into the WT20. Zampa and Agar will undoubtedly be their trump-cards in UAE, but no batting line-up would like to go up against an in-form Starc/Hazlewood and a recharged and refreshed Pat Cummins.
Ashton Turner is bowling again
Ashton Turner is bowling again and it’s fantastic news for Australia, if not for the man himself. Across the three ODIs, Turner endured his heaviest ever workload thus far in international cricket - a total of 14 overs - and looked every bit of an off-spinner. His spell in the final ODI - 1/23 off 8 overs, which included a maiden - was a thing of beauty and the Western Australian got some juicy drift and turn to bamboozle the Windies batters. Ask Pooran, he’ll tell you. This shouldn’t come as a surprise though, as prior to his shoulder troubles, he was a pretty darn good offie. In the 2012 U19 WC, Turner in fact was the highest wicket-taker for Australia, scalping 11 wickets in just 6 innings.
How much Turner will be used with the ball going forward, particularly in T20s, remains to be seen, but his skills with the ball should definitely give him an edge over his competitors - Henriques and Christian - immediately against Bangladesh, where spin will prove to be king. For someone regarded as ‘Maxwell-lite’ with the bat, Australia wouldn’t mind Turner becoming a Maxwell-pro with the ball.
Alex Carey looks like he is ready to take over ODI captaincy
If these three games were Alex Carey’s audition for the job of ODI captaincy, then there’s every chance that, within the next 18 months, we could see the South Australian at the helm. Carey had one of the best captaincy debuts in recent memory, looking like he simply just belonged. To inspire this confidence-less, depleted unit to a series win over a full-strength Windies was impressive by all means, but what stood out was his ability to read the game and assess the conditions, and his shrewdness and proactiveness on the field.
This was fully on display in the third ODI where he took off Mitchell Starc - the highest wicket-taker in the series - after just the sixth over and introduced spin in an attempt to exploit the two-paced nature of the wicket. He played the match-up game to perfection, too, as while attacking left-handers Bravo and Pooran with the off-spin of Ashton Turner, he was quick to re-introduce Starc once Pollard started looking comfortable against the spinners. These bold decisions paid off and they were integral to the Kangaroos winning the series.
Also integral to the series win was Carey’s batting. He top-scored in the series with 112 runs, and it was his quintessential crisis-man knocks that made the difference in both the first and the third game. With Finch turning 35 in 4 months, Carey couldn’t have picked a better time to show the selectors that he is ready.
Australia are still close to hopeless against spin
Australia did eventually walk out on the other side as victors, but let’s not sugarcoat how hopeless they were against the spinners. 13 of the 23 wickets they lost in the series were against spin, and 9 times the Top 6 batters perished to the slower bowlers. Between them, Akeal Hosein and Hayden Walsh bowled 57 overs and averaged an astonishing 17, maintaining a remarkable ER of 3.87. Between overs 10 and 30, in fact, the Aussie batters struck at under 50 against the two spinners, highlighting their struggles against the slower bowlers.
That the Barbados wicket was ludicrously tilted in favour of spinners cannot be refuted, but how the Australian batsman handled the Windies spinners, particularly the left-arm spin of Hosein, was alarming. Not just Bangladesh, England and South Africa - two teams that have world-class spinners - too will be licking their lips at the prospect of tormenting this Australian batting unit with spin come the WT20, though it would be bolstered by the return of the big guns.
BBL guns disappoint
Australia’s BBL products with the bat have historically been disappointing at the international level - D’Arcy Short, Chris Lynn, Ben McDermott to name a few - but much was expected of the bowling products, Riley Meredith and Wes Agar, owing to the skill and x-factor they possess. Yet the tour, as a whole, turned out to be a disaster for Meredith and Agar, both of whom looked out of their depth. In particular, Agar, whose 11 overs across the first two ODIs were pretty innocuous.
Perhaps Agar’s inexperience mitigates his shortcomings, but the horror tour of Meredith, who prior to landing in the Caribbean had already got a taste of both international cricket and IPL, should serve as a cause for concern. Across the ODIs and T20Is, Meredith’s 12.5 overs cost 141 runs (ER 11.28), with his x-factor not proving to be effective at any point in the series. Fair to say that Meredith, at least, has bowled himself out of WT20 contention.
The Shambolic showing of the Sixers duo
Sydney Sixers winning back-to-back BBL titles was down to a lot of things, but both Moises Henriques and Josh Philippe were integral to the double title charge. At completely different stages in their respective careers, both Henriques and Philippe made their way into the national set-up this year, and the tour of the Caribbean was being viewed as potentially career-turning for the senior, and almost certainly career-defining for the junior. Now, a month on, how they’d be wishing to turn back time and have a second crack at the tour.
There were certainly a lot of disappointments for Australia across the 8 matches, but none so more than the shambolic showing of Henriques and Philippe. The two Sixers men averaged 13.37 and 13.16 across the ODIs and T20Is respectively, wilting at the first instance of pressure despite getting opportunities aplenty to prove their worth.
Deriving conclusions on the basis of 8 matches (six in the case of Philippe) is probably harsh, and most likely inaccurate, but both Henriques and Philippe do look like fish out of the water at the international level. While for the elder it looks like his best days are behind him, the younger one seems too green for the highest level. And it should ring alarm bells in Australia, given the two have been dominating the country’s premier franchise competition.