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How to fix our one-day woes

Alex Hales (right) of England survives a run out attempt despite the efforts of Australian wicketkeeper Alex Carey (right) during the second One Day International cricket match between Australia and England at the Gabba in Brisbane, Friday, January 19, 2018. (AAP Image/Darren England) NO ARCHIVING, EDITORIAL USE ONLY, IMAGES TO BE USED FOR NEWS REPORTING PURPOSES ONLY, NO COMMERCIAL USE WHATSOEVE
Alex Hales (right) of England survives a run out attempt despite the efforts of Australian wicketkeeper Alex Carey (right) during the second One Day International cricket match between Australia and England at the Gabba in Brisbane, Friday, January 19, 2018. (AAP Image/Darren England) NO ARCHIVING, EDITORIAL USE ONLY, IMAGES TO BE USED FOR NEWS REPORTING PURPOSES ONLY, NO COMMERCIAL USE WHATSOEVE

CRICKET: It's not the three straight losses to England in a one-day series already lost that has been the most alarming thing for Australia.

Since their ugly exit from the 2015 World Cup, England set about completely redefining the way it looked at the 50-over game and as a result, has compiled arguably the best team in the world.

But it is not just in personnel that England has excelled against Australia in these three games, but in method and that is where skipper Steve Smith's greatest issues lie.

"I think the way we play at our best is if we set ourselves up and give ourselves a chance at the back end to use the power we have," Smith said after being smashed in game three having giving up way too many runs with the ball then never getting going with the bat.

"We see guys like Mitch Marsh and (Marcus) Stoinis if they hit ball out of the middle of the bat it usually travels. It's about trying to have the wickets in hands to use the power at the end."

But that's actually not the way it works. Not any more.

You have to go at the start, in the middle, and again at the end. You need batsmen who can find a way to upset skilled bowlers with inventive batting that this current Aussie line-up just doesn't have.

Australia used 25 different players in its one-day team through 2017 trying to find the combination which works best. Most of the rotation however was with bowlers, which is strange given batting is where the line-up has struggled most.

In 15 games in 2017 Australia scored more than 300 just three times, and won each time. That's the minimum benchmark.

Maximum volume: Glenn Maxwell has all the necessary tricks to score rapidly in the middle overs. Picture: Getty Images
Maximum volume: Glenn Maxwell has all the necessary tricks to score rapidly in the middle overs. Picture: Getty Images

The Aussies thought they had put on a monster when they racked up 304 in game one at the MCG. England got the runs with an over to spare, and it was never in doubt.

In game two at the Gabba, Australia lost 5-61 in the final 10 overs, that period Smith talked about going big. England reeled in the home team's 270 in the 44th over.

In Australia's lacklustre chase at the SCG last Sunday only two batsmen, Aaron Finch and Marcus Stoinis, had a strike rate over 100 chasing a total of 302, which required more than a run a ball.

Australia still had four wickets in the shed when the 50th over finished, but were 16 runs short.

The Aussies scored just 50 runs from over 36 to 46, with wickets in hand. That's old style ODI cricket. Stockpiling middle-order wickets is fine, but runs have to be made at the same time.

Team selection has played a massive part in the stench emanating from the one-day outfit which has now lost nine of its past 10 games.

There is nothing dynamic about the middle order, and one-day cricket teams with the best batting always win. Chairman of selectors Trevor Hohns conceded the side needed more "hitting power".

Australian captain Steve Smith has scored just 86 runs at a strike rate of 78 in three games.
Australian captain Steve Smith has scored just 86 runs at a strike rate of 78 in three games.

Smith was a monster in the Ashes with 687 runs, putting the ball wherever he wanted it to go.

But he faced 1416 balls to get those runs. He had time, patience, and made the bowlers come to him because in Test cricket, they have to get him to win.

In one-day cricket, stifling him is more than enough.

Smith has scored just 86 runs at a strike rate of 78 in three games. He has hit just four fours, and looked increasingly frustrated.

"I don't know what it is, but not many balls were hitting the middle of my bat which was disappointing ... I'm just shanking it a little bit," Smith said after the Sydney game.

It's because he has to hit balls he normally wouldn't, searching for runs he has to get.

Travis Head, dumped after two games and just 12 runs, is way too conventional as a cricketer to upset skilled bowling which forces batsmen to be inventive as run-scorers.

He can go big, but needs bad balls to slog. His career strike rate is just 87. Not enough.

Glenn Maxwell’s career strike rate is 130, the best of any player in the history of ODI cricket.
Glenn Maxwell’s career strike rate is 130, the best of any player in the history of ODI cricket.

Glenn Maxwell on the other hand, for all his badly-timed dismissals, finds a way to score. His career strike rate is 130, the best of any player in the history of ODI cricket with an average of more than 30.

And Maxwell's BBL effort at the SCG on Tuesday night, watched by Aussie coach Darren Lehmann, showed all the tricks necessary to get runs when others couldn't.

Even when Maxwell got out, he did so by digging in and under a yorker and getting it without touching distance of the boundary. No-one in the Australian one-day side can do that.

Alex Carey should replace Tim Paine too. Carey made 27 off 24 balls coming in late in his debut game at the Gabba, and has smashed more than 400 BBL runs.

Batting for the final five overs at the SCG Paine faced 35 balls and made just 31, chasing 300, with wickets in the shed.

Mitchell Marsh’s ruthless power in short form cricket has suffered because he has poured so much effort in to making himself a Test batsman.
Mitchell Marsh’s ruthless power in short form cricket has suffered because he has poured so much effort in to making himself a Test batsman.

Mitch Marsh too, even though he has scored 144 runs in three innings, has done so at a strike rate of less than 80. Every time he has tried to go big, he has got out, and not once been there for the final 10 over slog Smith is after.

He has poured so much effort in to making himself a Test batsmen, which is all about defence, his ruthless power in short form cricket has suffered.

If it wasn't for Aaron Finch and Marcus Stoinis, who have hit 41 of Australia's 79 boundaries through the opening three games, his series could have been a bigger disaster.

"With the World Cup in 2019, there is a lot of one-day cricket to be played between now and then," selection chairman Trevor Hohns said in announcing a complete review of strategy and personnel.

"So, we will be trying very soon to get together the main nucleus of our squad so they can play together for some time."

Hohns needs to have the guts to do what England has done, pick the best one-day players, not just the best players, and realise Smith's strategy, the middle-overs muddle, is old news.

Australia has to embrace the unconventional. The World Cup defence depends on it.

IDEAL ODI XI

David Warner

Aaron Finch

Chris Lynn

Steve Smith

Glenn Maxwell

Marcus Stoinis

Alex Carey

Ashton Agar

Pat Cummins

Mitch Starc

Josh Hazlewood

AVERAGE SCORE BATTING 1ST, LAST 10 FULL ODIS

Australia 293

4 x 300+ scores

England 313

8 x 300+ scores

ENGLAND has scored over 300 batting first 19 times since the 2015 World Cup, and twice passed 400, with a highest score of 3-444 against Pakistan.

AUSTRALIA has passed 300 batting first 11 times since the 2015 World Cup, and has not scored over 400, with a highest score of 5-378 against New Zealand

Topics:  australia cricket glenn maxwell mitch marsh one-day international steve smith