There is little doubt in anyone’s mind, least of all in those that take the field for them, that Australia begins the World Cup as favourites. They bat strongly at the start and they finish strongly at the end. In between there are some busy players and the middle order is dotted with some others to whom the situation doesn’t seem to matter very much. But there are other good batting sides in the tournament. What makes Australia special is that the bowling is at you all the time.
Finch and Warner, two gunslingers, you never know who shoots first. Each is a match winner though I suspect Finch has been given the innings building role while Warner tees off. It is as it should be for Finch has the greater gravity as a person too. Watson is the preferred number three and you can see why for he has opened the batting well and hits powerfully. Australia don’t like to dawdle, they know they bat deep and so there is the licence to play shots early.
With these three above and Maxwell, Marsh and Haddin below, Australia have to choose two between Smith, Clarke and Bailey. Smith has the ability to become a great player because he is extremely innovative but can play at run a ball without apparent risk. I saw him in the tri series and was reminded of how Azharuddin played. Hardly a boundary but a run a ball fifty! I think Smith and Clarke bring substance to the innings, they link the dashers at the top with the finishers below. And both are genuinely world class even in the shorter game.
It isn’t yet clear how much of a role Faulker will play but in Maxwell, Marsh and him teams will sweat on the final score. Teams would be happy with one of those and Australia will play two with Haddin and Mitchell Johnson thrown in.
With the new rules you need pace and Australia have lots of it in Johnson, Cummins and Starc with young Hazlewood nippier than he seems. Add Faulker, Watson and Marsh and you have three seam bowling all-rounders; a luxury no other team has. And like all Australian sides they will make totals seem larger in the field. Put Maxwell, Warner and Smith in the outfield and you will be hard pressed to find a better unit.
So how do you beat Australia? Maybe on a slow wicket, if you find one. But maybe by waiting for their supreme confidence, which is often just a step away from arrogance, to derail them. You will have to be a very good bowling side to beat them and there aren’t a lot around.