Ashes glory fades for Australia
Australia’s premier fast bowlers are set to be reunited for the must-win match today with the national team in the midst of its worst run in oneday international cricket.
The post-Ashes glow is quickly fading for Steve Smith’s side, which is in an alarming slump in the 50-over arena less than 18 months before next year’s World Cup.
The regaining of the urn means this season will be hailed as a success, regardless of what happens in the coloured clothing, but there are serious concerns in the limited overs format Australia used to dominate. Since comfortably beating Pakistan at the end of last summer, Australia have won just one of 10 completed one-dayers. Australia have had lean trots in this form, but this is the worst 10-game stretch in history. Australia have slipped to fifth in the world rankings.
Fortunately for Smith, history shows how quickly fortunes can change. Under Allan Border in 1986-87, Australia suffered a 2-8 run, but months later secured a historic World Cup win in India.
Things were even worse in 1996-97 when Australia won two of 13. It sparked what was then unprecedented change the following season when Mark Taylor was dumped as one-day captain for Steve Waugh and the Test and oneday teams were split. The World Cup cycle finished on a high with success in England in 1999.
In a much-needed boost for the home team, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood are likely inclusions for a match Australia cannot lose if they are to continue their run of 11 unbeaten series at home.
Cummins, who was rested from the second match, bowled in the nets on Friday, while Hazlewood rolled the arm over yesterday after missing the Brisbane leg due to a virus.
The star trio of Cummins, Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc have not played together in the canary yellow since the Champions Trophy last June. Injury has been a factor.
Australia have played nine different frontline quicks in 13 games since the end of the last home season.
‘‘I guess in a way it could help having a team together throughout the whole time,’’ Starc said after the team’s arrival in Sydney. ‘‘Obviously, scheduling is part of it and injuries as well. I haven’t played much ODI cricket since the Champions Trophy for one. I think they’ve [England] had the same team from the Champions Trophy throughout, so it’s helped their form of cricket and how they’re playing the game and their confidence there.’’
But bringing the band back is no guarantee of a rise up the charts. The last three matches Hazlewood, Cummins and Starc played as a group all ended in defeat. In each of those games Australia struggled with the bat, which has been a trend throughout their barren run.
Starc gave Australia a whiff of victory in Brisbane with four wickets, but is unhappy with his bowling, particularly at the start of the innings. ‘‘[I’ve] been pretty poor, if I’m honest, with the new ball – leaking a few runs,’’ Starc said. ‘‘Still able to take a few wickets, but I think it’s one thing we’ve mentioned as a group is our new ball bowling [has] been pretty poor of late.
‘‘If the two big guys come back tomorrow it’s important for us to start really well with the ball against a pretty aggressive line-up.’’
Starc wants to play the remaining three games but is unlikely to be granted his wish with an important Test series to come in South Africa.