Trent Bridge: Australia are running out of time. The team without some of their best batsmen and bowlers for one reason or another have to win the third one-day international in England on Tuesday to stay alive in the five-match series. And the onus is on the batsmen to change the tide.
Calling for the top-order batsmen, including himself, to be “more accountable”, Aaron Finch said in the lead up to the third ODI at Trent Bridge that there had been far too many mistakes on their part in the first two games.
“At times, I think, we're playing some good cricket, at times we're making some mistakes that seem to be happening pretty regularly. We keep talking about middle-order collapses and losing wickets in clumps and it keeps happening,” said Finch, who has scored 19 and 0 so far, first opening the innings and then batting at No.5.
“I don't know whether we're working ourselves up into a frenzy about things like that but it's disappointing obviously.”
It’s not only been this series, Australia’s first in any format since the ball-tampering incident in Cape Town robbed them of the services of Steve Smith and David Warner, as well as Cameron Bancroft. They have now lost 13 of their last 15 completed ODIs and seven of the last eight. If they lose this series, it will be their fourth successive bilateral ODI series loss.
In the ongoing series against the No.1 ODI team in the world, it’s been the opposition spinners who have caused the most damage: Between them, Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid have combined returns of 10/196 from 38 overs. And with Liam Plunkett picking up seven wickets on his own, it’s not been a happy time.
“It's about minimising a little bit of risk at times,” said Finch. “In the past, we've been ultra-aggressive against spin and we're probably still going with that a little bit at times rather than taking the game a little bit deeper.
“Whether that's through a lack of attention to detail or trying to up the ante too much and push the game forward when we just need to hold a little bit … only the individual knows what their role is in the side at the time, in that partnership, in that scenario.
“I think we've got to be a little bit more honest with ourselves and our teammates and probably just communicate a little bit better and be accountable to each other and just try and soak up a little bit more pressure. There have been some times where we've really let ourselves down with the bat."
For Australia, Shaun Marsh’s 131 in the second game was a stellar effort. But outside of that, the best have been Glenn Maxwell’s 62 and 31 and Ashton Agar’s 40 and 46 – but they bat at No.6 and No.7 respectively.
“We've got a few guys who can bat at the top of the order. Over the last 12 or 18 months I've batted in the middle order in quite a lot of T20 cricket – the IPL, the recent T20 tri-series – and done it reasonably successfully as well. So it's just about trying to find a balance in our side,” pointed out Finch.
“What we have been doing hasn't been working over the last little while, but it's also a chance to try some new things. I'm very comfortable batting at five. I haven't done it a hell of a lot in one-day cricket but, having done it in T20 cricket over the last 18 months gives me a bit more of an understanding on how to go about it.”
With the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 less than a year away, Australia must find a way to get their combination right as they go out to defend their title in England and Wales. Smith and Warner – as well as the injured Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood – should be available for selection then, which should be a plus.
“It's something that, over the next 12 months, will be shuffled around a little bit, just trying to find what combinations work best for the side,” said Finch. “I'm sure there will be a little bit of tinkering. If you look down our batting order in the first two games, besides Shaun getting a big hundred, most guys have got starts.
“It’s about kicking on, being more ruthless, more disciplined through that middle part when we are getting out. It’s about taking more care.”