Cricket World Cup Profile: Australia need their bowlers to fire
They have won the most titles (five), and are the defending champions. So, is there any team that can stop Australia from winning the 2019 Cricket World Cup?
The Aussies have hit the self-destruction button in recent years, with all the fall-out from the ball-tampering saga in South Africa last year and other off-field issues before that.
But guess what – Steve Smith and David Warner are back in the side…
Top Two Batsmen: Glenn Maxwell, Steve Smith
Smith is the rock of the Australian batting line-up. His ability to dictate terms to pacemen and spinners alike make him a difficult man to bowl to once he gets through the early period of an innings.
His ODI stats are strong, although not as good as his Test numbers – 3 431 runs an average of 41.84 in 108 games, with a strike-rate of 86.35. But if there is any seam movement for the fast bowlers, Smith has the technique to see off the pressure.
Maxwell, in contrast to Smith, has been a bit of a yo-yo character in the Aussie line-up. He never established himself in the Test arena, but has blossomed recently in the 50-over format.
Maxwell is one of the biggest hitters in the team, and has a sparkling 121.95 strike-rate in 100 ODIs to prove it.
He is in top form, having hit quick-fire scores of 71, 98 and 70 in his last three official ODIs against Pakistan at the end of March. He followed it up with 72 and 50 against a New Zealand XI in May.
Top Two Bowlers: Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins
Mitchell Starc was the Player of the Tournament in 2015, taking 22 wickets to drive Australia to the title on home soil.
He bowled with incredible pace and swing, but since then, he’s had his fair share of injury niggles and loss of form to contend with.
But he is fit again in time for the 2019 edition, and considering his array of skills and some assistance in the English conditions, he will be a handful once more.
With coach Justin Langer having defended the omission of Josh Hazlewood, that could place more pressure on someone like Pat Cummins.
The then-18-year-old made his name on Test debut against South Africa in 2011, but has also had an injury-plagued career.
However, he has turned things around in recent seasons, and was voted as the Australian Player of the Year last season. Cummins has continued that good form in the last two series against India and Pakistan, and seven more wickets in the two unofficial games against New Zealand.
Captain: Aaron Finch
The hard-hitting opener has had to help pick up the pieces after the Warner-Smith debacle, and has finally had a change in fortune as captain of the ODI side with victories over India and Pakistan.
But perhaps the biggest test for him will be how to manage former captain Smith and vice-captain Warner…
He will also need to maintain his form, as Warner’s return at the top of the order could result in Usman Khawaja – who was outstanding against Pakistan – moving down to No 3 or being dropped altogether.
While most pundits would back the defending champions to make the last-four, is their bowling attack good enough to knock over the opposition? Starc is not the bowler of old, and the dropped Josh Hazlewood could’ve been a handful on English pitches.
The spinners are no great shakes either, so Starc may opt to bowl first if he wins the toss, so that his powerful batting line-up know what they need to make.
Adam Zampa talks joining Nathan Lyon in the same playing XI for the World Cup pic.twitter.com/vW4KN5QFRd— cricket.com.au (@cricketcomau) May 20, 2019
Australia Group Matches
1 June (2.30pm): Afghanistan, Bristol
6 June (11.30am): West Indies, Nottingham
9 June (11.30am): India, London (The Oval)
12 June (11.30am): Pakistan, Taunton
15 June (11.30am): Sri Lanka, London (The Oval)
20 June (11.30am): Bangladesh, Nottingham
25 June (11.30am): England, London (Lord’s)
29 June (2.30pm): New Zealand, London (Lord’s)
6 July (2.30pm): South Africa, Manchester@ashfakmohamed