How it Started- New Zealand 200/3 defeated Australia 111 all out
An 89-run loss to start any tournament is tough to come back from, let alone a loss for a host nation considered one of the favourites. Australia was undone by a tremendous batting display by New Zealand, starring their opener Devon Conway who finished with 92 not out to lead New Zealand to their mighty total.
The bowling innings for Australia was uncertain at the best of times, with Josh Hazlewood (2/41) and Adam Zampa (1/39) being the only two to take wickets against the Kiwis.
This brings into question how Australia structure their fielding innings in terms of bowling order and changes between the ends as nobody was able to build any tangible pressure on the New Zealand batsmen. On The Top Edge Podcast, we suggested that Nathan Ellis provides that bowling variety the team sort of lacks with Pat Cummins and Hazlewood trying to fulfil a similar role together with mixed results.
On the other side of the ball, Australia wasn't able to develop any batting innings, playing the entire game under pressure with the high required run rate. Subsequently, some mistakes and ill fortune lead to the Aussies only managing a little over half of New Zealand's total for a meagre chase and a big hit on the net run rate aspect of the group table. Only Maxwell looked close to putting together a decent score, falling for 28 off 20 balls but when less pressure is on, the Australian batsmen generally do perform.
Mitch Marsh on Monday Night
Reflecting on the poor first game for the Aussies, experienced all-rounder Mitch Marsh spoke about the keys to success moving on in the tournament.
"(It was) a massive build-up for us as a team and I think it just goes to show that if you're slightly off, they'll jump us at the start," Marsh said when asked about the weak opening result against New Zealand.
"The nature of the tournament: you lose one game and your backs are against the wall." said the 31-year-old all-rounder, speaking on the competitive nature of the Super 12.
"We'll certainly have an aggressive approach, we know that when the big 3 bowlers get going then they're very hard to stop and I think certainly after the other night, we'll see a big response from them.
"I think that we've got a lot of confidence in our group that once we get on a roll, we're going to be very hard to stop."
When asked about potential tactical changes on the bowling against Sri Lanka, Marsh had a particular suggestion for his captain.
"I've offered to bowl the first over but I keep getting shut down so, I'll just be available to bowl."
Game 2- Sri Lanka 157/6 was chased down by Australia 158/3
While they looked shaky at times, Australia did get the bounce-back result they were looking for, defeating Sri Lanka by 7 wickets with over 3 overs to spare. Zampa missed out due to a positive COVID-19 diagnosis but Ashton Agar played admirably in his stead, bowling a tidy 1/25 off four overs and snatching the important wicket of Dhananjaya Da Silva.
While ill-disciplined at times and during certain points of the innings, Australia rotated their bowling much more than they did against New Zealand with Glenn Maxwell taking 1/5 off of his only over and Mitchell Starc's four overs going at less than 6 runs per over for tidy figures of 1/23. Only three Sri Lanka batsmen hit at a strike rate over 100 which meant that their total was an obtainable one for the Australian batsmen.
The batting was a talking point for Australia as Maxwell had another strong cameo of 23 off 12 balls, but it was Marcus Stoinis who played the starring role in the batting chase with a remarkable display of power hitting. Stoinis finished on 59 not out to break his run of poor form off of only 18 balls and looked back to his innings finishing best.
"It didn't feel like batting, maybe a bit of slogging," Stoinis said on his personal performance.
"The intention was to just go and put an impact on the game and probably provide a bit of energy for the boys and try to get a spark going.
"It felt like we bowled pretty well, bowled well in the powerplay, I think we're pretty happy with how we bowled. I think there are a few things we could tidy up." Said Stoinis when asked about the Australian tactics against the Sri Lankan batting lineup.
"Backs are still against the wall I think, (England) is going to be a really important game for us."
The Key for the Rest of the Tournament
Stoinis and Marsh both spoke to the narrative of having their backs against the wall in this tournament after the New Zealand result and perhaps this is the mental key to unlocking the potential of this team. Frustrations for key players for the past few months in T20 cricket have been evident but a knock like that of Stoinis can be a huge momentum shift and may prove to be crucial in the grand scheme of the tournament.
Getting performances out of the top order will be crucial against England and for the wider tournament, and if Australia does qualify through the super 12, then they may indeed be the team with the momentum heading down to the pointy end of the world cup.
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