PAKISTAN TOUR OF AUSTRALIA, 2019
After missing the India series, Agar has gone some way into establishing himself in the T20I side. © Getty
Australia’s 2-0 series win over Pakistan, sealed with another impressive win at Perth, ensured they went through the entire year unbeaten in the format. Their seven-match winning run (excluding the washed out game) may not be the most earth-shattering feat, but it’s quite something considering the nature of their dominance and the significance of it with the T20 World Cup in mind.
“Really proud of the boys with the way we applied ourselves in the last couple of weeks,” captain Aaron Finch said after the win on Friday (November 8). “Our commitment to training and buying into plans has been impressive. We’ve got the rewards here. But it’s all about improving. Each time we turn up at training we are improving our game, improving as a team, and that is very important. We are growing as a team and hopefully some bigger things to come.”
Remarkably, this turnaround has come on the back of an ordinary second half to 2018 where they lost a lot more than they won. Justin Langer, later in the press conference, jokingly said they were the ‘worst [T20] team in the world’ 12 months back. It speaks as much to the nature of the format as it does to the return of Steve Smith and David Warner, the duo being a real force in these last couple of series.
The top three as a whole, in fact, were exemplary this summer. Finch and David Warner nearly always gave a flying start and on the off-chance they didn’t, Steve Smith took the mantle in style with a couple of glittering half-centuries.
“We always talk about one of the top three batting deep and batting a majority of the overs. It’s been pleasing we’ve done that against a world-class bowling attack. It’s nice to do it against a top team,” Finch said.
But really, it’s the bowling that’s been the cornerstone of Australia’s success. Nothing tells that story better than this remarkable stat – all of their frontline bowlers (minimum five matches) have an economy of under seven this year.
Leading the way in that aspect is left-arm spinner Ashton Agar, whose economy rate is under six. After missing the cut for the India series earlier this year, Agar’s gone some way establishing himself in the squad.
Right-arm seamer Kane Richardson hasn’t done himself much harm either, producing his best performance of the fortnight in Perth to shake off the pounding he took in the previous match. Even Sean Abbott took his only chance to make an impact, returning with a Man-of-the-Match performance of 2 for 14 in their final T20I of the year.
It was this all-round performance from the bowlers, apart from the usual suspects, that gave Finch plenty of satisfaction. “The way that Agar bowled through this series and in the Sri Lanka series was arguably our Man of the Series. For a left-arm orthodox to be so effective on wickets that didn’t provide a huge amount of spin, he was outstanding along with Adam Zampa.
“When you’re bowling against quality players of spin, they were just brilliant. That was the important part. Also wickets in the powerplay. Starcy, Richardson were brilliant every chance they got. Sean Abbott has come back after five years and did the business first up was unbelievable,” he added.
One area where Australia weren’t tested though, or weren’t allowed to by their prolific top three, was the middle-order as the likes of Ashton Turner, Ben McDermott and Alex Carey were barely required. And in Glenn Maxwell’s absence, it could be something that opponents might target.
For now, Australia have put a lot of the other teams on notice with a perfect start to their preparations for the T20 World Cup. And while a lot can happen in 12 months, as Langer admitted, the signs are ominous.