The international men’s summer of cricket has drawn to a close, with the West Indies denying Australia a clean sweep of the white-ball portion of the tour.
The visitors secured a thumping 37-run victory over the Australians at Perth Stadium on Tuesday evening courtesy of Andre Russell’s counterpunching 71 (29) and Roston Chase’s economical spell during the run chase.
However, Australia’s attention shifts swiftly towards next week’s T20 series against the Black Caps in New Zealand and the T20 World Cup in the United States and West Indies, which gets underway in June/
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Australia v West Indies: T20I Game 2 | 09:49
‘NO PRESSURE’: NUMBERS SHOWS MAXWELL’S TRUE VALUE
There’s perhaps nobody more important in Australia’s T20 side than Glenn Maxwell, and these numbers prove why.
Since the start of 2022, the Victorian has averaged 48.77 in T20I wins while striking at 166.92, including two hundreds and a half-century. However, that figure slips dramatically to 13.87 with a strike rate of 116.84 in defeats and no fifties.
While it’s too simplistic to conclude that when Maxwell succeeds, so does Australia, but there’s no denying the team will heavily rely on the Big Show in the United States and West Indies this year.
“No pressure Maxy!” former Australian batter Michael Hussey laughed on Fox Cricket after being shown the numbers.
“In the last couple of years, when he’s played such good, consistent cricket, when he fires, the opposition is shell-shocked. They don’t know where to bowl to him.
“It also takes pressure off everyone else in the order. Every other batter can come in and think they can play their own game.
“He’s such an important player in the team because of the way he plays, but also the pressure he takes off everyone else in the team.”
WHY STOINIS COULD PLAY WORLD CUP DESPITE FORM SLUMP
Marcus Stoinis’ international career appears to be in limbo after another underwhelming campaign with the bat.
The West Australian accumulated 25 runs at 12.50 against the West Indies this week, failing to cement his spot in the side ahead of this year’s T20 World Cup.
Stoinis was dropped from Australia’s ODI team earlier this summer after over four years without a half-century in the format, but his T20 numbers have been more consistent.
Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, the 34-year-old has averaged 34.95 in T20Is with a strike rate of 151.41. No Australian player has scored more runs at a higher strike rate during that period.
He thumped match-winning knocks during the 2021 T20 World Cup semi-final against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates and last summer’s group-stage contest against Sri Lanka in Perth.
Stoinis has only scored one fifty in his most recent 59 matches for Australia across formats, but his contributions with the ball have arguably been more valuable. He was Australia’s equal leading wicket-taker against the West Indies with five scalps at 11.20, taking a three-wicket haul at Adelaide Oval on Sunday evening.
The right-armed seamer has taken 20 scalps at 23.55 over the past four years, more than respectable numbers for an all-rounder, while he provides a valuable fifth bowling option for the Australians.
He brings balance to Australia’s T20 starting XI, which is why he may keep the likes of Jake Fraser-McGurk and Matthew Short waiting a little longer on the sidelines.
WHO DONS THE GLOVES AT THE WORLD CUP?
Matthew Wade has been Australia’s first-choice T20 gloveman for over four years, but the Tasmanian might have some competition ahead of this year’s T20 World Cup.
The 36-year-old, who led Australia during December’s T20 tour of India, has been a superb finisher since the start of the 2021 T20 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates, averaging 57.66 with a strike rate of 152.64 during that period.
However, Wade’s glovework was far from its best against the West Indies this week, fumbling several regulation grabs and letting byes through his legs.
On Sunday evening, Australian legend Adam Gilchrist declared that Josh Inglis, picked as a specialist batter against the West Indies, was the superior wicketkeeper.
Inglis, Australia’s first-choice ODI gloveman, scored his maiden T20I hundred against India in November, a record-equalling 110 (50) in Visakhapatnam. During Friday evening’s T20 against the West Indies in Hobart, he combined with veteran opener David Warner for a rapid 93-run partnership, which ultimately proved the distance in a narrow victory.
Capable of batting anywhere in the top seven, Inglis’ versatility makes him a valuable asset to the Australians, but he probably hasn’t done enough to squeeze Wade out of the first-choice starting XI.
Barring a drastic change in form, Inglis looks destined to serve as the reserve batter in the United States and West Indies this year.
“(Wade) has done a fantastic job for Australia down the order,” Hussey said on Fox Cricket commentary.
“Inglis is the future, no question about that, and he’s so versatile, you can bat him anywhere. I’d have him in the squad, definitely.
“Wade, they really rate him highly, the role that he plays down the order. He’s got experience.”
BEHRENDORFF’S FUTURE UNCLEAR AFTER JOHNSON’S RAPID RISE
Has Jason Behrendorff played his final match for Australia?
Last week, the left-armed quick was named T20 Men’s Player of the Year at the Australian Cricket Awards following a superb campaign in India in December.
However, Behrendorff was omitted from Australia’s squad for next week’s T20 tour of New Zealand, making way for Mitchell Starc’s return.
Although the snub indicated he wasn’t currently in Australia’s T20 World Cup plans, Behrendorff had an opportunity to push his case for a recall against the West Indies this week.
Unfortunately, the West Australian couldn’t deliver.
Behrendorff conceded 93 runs in seven overs across the opening two matches in Hobart and Adelaide, with the West Indies openers feasting on his bowling during the Powerplay. He bounced back with an impeccable spell with the new ball at Perth Stadium on Tuesday, but it was an otherwise disappointing campaign.
Following the rapid rise of Spencer Johnson, who claimed two wickets during the Adelaide T20, it’s unclear when Behrendorff will get another chance in canary yellow.
Time isn’t on Behrendorff’s side, with the paceman celebrating his 34th birthday in April. As is often the case with World Cup cycles, national selectors may start looking towards the next generation after this year’s tournament in the United States and West Indies.
The likes of Johnson and Queensland quick Xavier Bartlett may leapfrog him in the pecking order next summer.
Behrendorff is at risk of joining a growing list of Australian fast bowlers who never fulfilled their potential at international level due to the ‘big three’ of Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood and Starc.
SIX DOESN’T GO INTO TWO
Who opens for Australia at the T20 World Cup this year?
The only lock would be David Warner, named player of the T20 series against the West Indies after finishing the three-match campaign as the leading run-scorer with 173 runs at 57.66.
However, the identity of the veteran’s opening partner is currently unclear.
Josh Inglis opened in the first two T20s against the West Indies, while captain Mitchell Marsh took over for the series finale in Perth. Neither nailed the role, but both are more than worthy options.
Warner goes bang in brave T20 knock | 02:58
However, when Australia travels to New Zealand next week for another three-match T20 series against the Black Caps, three more candidates will feature in the squad.
Travis Head, who steered Australia towards World Cup glory in India last year, is perhaps the most obvious choice. The South Australian has opened the batting seven times before in T20Is, averaging 33.57 with a strike rate of 175.37 including a career-best 91 against South Africa last year.
Meanwhile, Adelaide Strikers opener Matt Short, who has been named player of the Big Bash League in two consecutive seasons, is also a strong chance of being picked in Australia’s T20 World Cup squad.
And there’s Steve Smith, arguably the best cricketer since Sir Donald Bradman. The New South Welshman has rarely been given a chance to prove his worth at the top of the order in canary yellow, but it’s difficult to ignore his back-to-back hundreds for the Sydney Sixers last year.
The national selectors will no doubt use the upcoming New Zealand tour as an opportunity to finetune the first-choice starting XI, but it remains to be seen which players get a chance to push their case against the Black Caps.