Steve Smith picks himself
Given the form of just about all of Australia’s batsmen in recent months, there were a few quiet whispers that Steve Smith was no certain starter at the World Cup. Anyone who watched Smith during his free-wheeling, classical-meets-contemporary batting exhibition of 89no will tell you otherwise. The performance was a far cry from the right-hander’s scratchy 22 on Monday, which suggests he simply needed an innings to find his feet but find them he has. Wednesday’s innings included four fours and four sixes as the former skipper provided the country with a warm reassurance he remains one of the game’s most brilliant batsmen.
The Maxi factor is massive
As it limped along to what was ultimately a winning total of 9-215 on Monday, Australia’s middle order was clearly missing something, and after today’s evidence, that something was Glenn Maxwell. The Victorian finished the UAE ODI series with scores of 70, 71 and 98 and despite a lean few weeks with Lancashire, he quickly rediscovered his international mojo and went shot-for-shot with Smith during an entertaining 81-run stand. Maxwell made 52 of those and his only regret would have been his failure to see out the innings (he was dismissed with five overs remaining); such are his talents, Australia’s insufficient total of 277 could have easily been a winning one.
Starc, like Cummins, a cut above
On Monday it was Pat Cummins who shone with the new ball, and today it was Mitchell Starc’s turn. Team analysts positioned a radar at one end of the ground and it showed the left-arm quick to be hitting speeds approaching 150kph. The 2015 World Cup Player of the Tournament was lethal against the Black Caps, taking two wickets with searing yorkers and conceding just 14 runs from his five overs, before he was rested from the remainder of the match. Justin Langer will have enjoyed what he saw from his spearhead, who looks in superb condition three weeks out from Australia’s tournament opener.
Khawaja edges ahead of Marsh
Classy left-handers Usman Khawaja and Shaun Marsh teamed up for an aesthetically pleasing 63-run stand for Australia’s third wicket, and while they were contributing to the same cause today, there is no escaping the fact they appear locked in a battle for the number three position in Aaron Finch’s side. Marsh hit a couple of early boundaries before contenting himself with singles as he looked set for the long haul, however his dismissal on 28 gave Khawaja the chance to edge him on points for the day. The Queenslander duly pressed on to record a solid 56 from 75 deliveries and was unlucky to find himself the victim of a stunning catch at short midwicket from Jimmy Neesham from a full-blooded pull shot. Both batsmen will be desperate to make an emphatic statement before the squad flies out after Friday’s final warm-up here in Brisbane.
Carey warming to the task
Alex Carey isn’t the biggest hitter in the team but the pressure will regularly be on him at the World Cup to either boost first-innings totals in a hurry or see Australia home with a cool head in a pressure situation. The keeper-batsman appears better-equipped for the latter but today was one of several recent examples where he has shown ways to tick along at an excellent strike-rate. Carey entered the action in the 45th over today and with the total at a fairly meagre 213, he couldn’t afford to waste time. Rather than trying to force brute power, he found gaps with invention to hit the ropes on four occasions from just 12 balls. His end contribution of 22 from 12 was just the kind of cameo Australia will need from him next month.