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Bangalore: Australian captain Pat Cummins suspects his team had been trying too hard up to the moment they got the breakthrough that sped them towards victory against Sri Lanka in Lucknow on Monday, but now were in the right mindset to pursue a second win against Pakistan on Friday.
He also said he expected a high-scoring game, unlike the first two.
“I think everyone in the team after the first two [losses] really came trying to make amends,” Cummins said. “Maybe even trying a bit too hard. For the first 25 overs, everyone in the field was diving around.”
When Sri Lanka were 0-125, the game seemed up. Then he coaxed a top edge from Pathum Nissanka, David Warner took a spectacular outfield catch and Australia were away. “I would have liked the breakthrough to come earlier, but once we got it, I felt like we got on a roll which we earned,” Cummins said.
Cummins said he thought the game against a characteristically talented but unpredictable Pakistan team would be won and lost where one-day internationals generally are now, in the so-called middle overs. It’s a phase that has been vexing Australia in this tournament.
Australian captain Pat Cummins: The balance is now right, he says.Credit: Getty Images
“Most games of ODI cricket are won in those middle overs, either by not conceding wickets when you’re batting or trying to get a few breakthroughs with the ball,” he said.
“It’s an area of the game we spend a lot of time on how to navigate through. We always (say) to our players, play what’s in front of you. If you feel like it’s a good opportunity to attack, go for it. If it feels like a moment where you need to bide your time and set up for the back thing, that’s also ok.”
The batsmen, in particular, would have to be on their games. To date, they’ve been underwhelming.
“Especially at a venue like here in Bangalore, I daresay it’s going to be high scoring,” Cummins said. “Small outfield, pitch is always really good here, so batting is super important. I think the way the guys started last game really set the tone. Mitch (Marsh) and Davey (Warner) upfront: from the first over taking the game. That’s what we want from our players.
“They’re working really hard. They’re doing all the right things and I’m sure plenty runs around the corner.”
The bowlers would prioritise wicket-taking over run-saving. “I think you saw a bit of a shift in our last game,” Cummins said. “Against South Africa, we felt like we had them relatively under control, but we didn’t get any wickets. Last game [against Sri Lanka], we were more aggressive, a few more bouncers, got a breakthrough and that’s where you get into the game. It’s always a balance.”
Australia are likely to name an unchanged team. Cummins said he would not take the new ball. He said he would naturally take the effect of lights at dusk and a likely dewfall into account at the toss, but added that it was not as important as in a Test match. Historically, it made little difference. Cummins said leg-spinner Adam Zampa was still sore, but would play.
The skipper shrugged of suggestions from former captain Michael Clarke that he would be dropped. “A couple of the boys let me know I was being dropped, so that was interesting.”
Cummins said he had noted the Netherlands’ shock win over South Africa and the way it had opened up the competition. “It was good, I won’t lie,” he said. Ultimately, what it demonstrated was that all 10 teams were here on merit and none could be taken for granted, he said. Australia’s next game is against the Netherlands.
Meantime, Travis Head will meet the team in Delhi on Saturday, setting off an intrigue about selection for Australia’s next match next Wednesday and for the rest of the tournament.
Head will return to his opener’s berth, that’s for sure. His swashbuckling batting at the top of the order and his useful off-spin were key to Australia’s original blueprint. He has been sorely missed.
“A couple of the boys let me know I was being dropped, so that was interesting.”
Marsh most likely will ease down to No.3 and Steve Smith to No.4. Deploying Marsh any lower would be too smart by half. With his hard hands, he is vulnerable early to spin. Smith is probably the best player of spin in the team.
All-rounders Glenn Maxwell and Marcus Stoinis are needed for hitting power and bowling cover, which puts the squeeze on Marnus Labuschagne.
There are wheels within wheels here. Labuschagne is comfortably Australia’s leading scorer in the tournament to date, but his strike rate is a modest 65. In mitigation, that is because he has had either to try to stabilise a wobbling innings or salvage the net run rate in a game already lost. It was the team thing.
Labuschagne was not in Australia’s original plan until Head’s injury. Asked in warm-up matches to demonstrate that he could bat a higher tempo if needed, he did. He’s been a good team man, but cruelly, the best he can do for the team now is to make way.
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