Aaron Finch, the Australia limited-overs captain, has used the extended downtime created by Covid-19 to map out a plan to take Australia into the 2023 World Cup and wants to start implementing it on the England tour which will mark their first cricket for more than five months.
While Australia have moved top of the T20I rankings with nine wins in their last 11 matches – and would have been one of the favourites going into the now-postponded T20 World Cup on home soil which was due to take place in October-November this year – their ODI cricket has again been uncertain after they reached the semi-finals last year in the UK.
Although the next T20 World Cup will now be in India in 2021, with the Australia event in 2022, Finch said before leaving for this tour that he did not think it would need any drastic rethinking.
Instead, Finch has focused on what needs to be done over the next three years leading into 2023, which he has also earmarked as his retirement date. He is eager for the players to get used to a style of play that will carry them into that tournament. Although they reached the semi-finals last time their team and tactics came together at the 11th hour, Finch wants a more controlled longer-term vision.
“One-day cricket we haven’t been where we need to be in the world rankings and been as consistent,” he said. “We’ve been doing a lot of work on that over the last couple of months as management, with myself involved in that as well. We feel as though we have a style that can win us that World Cup and to keep implementing that over a long period of time and becoming second nature will be really important.”
In the T20I format, Australia will expect to challenge England although the home side may bring back some first-choice players who were involved in the Test side such as Jos Buttler and Jofra Archer.
“Having got to No.1 in the world in T20 cricket we want to stay there and keep improving on our game,” Finch said. “We feel our game plan has been really solid for quite a while and we’re really comfortable how that looks for various conditions and opponents.”
The first couple of days of Australia’s tour mostly involved a spot of golf on the outfield, a Covid-19 test and then watching the rain fall, but Finch expects the squad to show “high intensity” when they begin their inter-squad warm-up matches in Southampton on Friday.
After a 19-hour journey on a chartered jet via Colombo and Dubai into East Midlands airport which arrived on Monday morning, Australia settled into their short-term base at the County Ground in Derby. Greeted by sunshine they underwent their first Covid-19 swabs of the trip – having all been tested before flying out – while the groundsman laid out some mats to allow them to hit a few golf shots within the bio-secure bubble.
Then they opened their curtains on Tuesday to a deluge leaving them to use the indoor school to shake off the jetlag. On Thursday the squad will relocate to the Ageas Bowl following the conclusion of England’s Test series against Pakistan and begin the serious build-up with their first of five practice games.
The matches – one 50-over game and four T20s – won’t follow the exact model of the Ashes trial game last year (at the same ground) when two sets of players faced off to secure the remaining spots in the Test squad, but putting together a collection of cricketers who haven’t played a match in more than five months is likely to be competitive.
“Coming off such a long layoff – it’s going to be really important for us to get together again and have a real high intensity hit out,” Finch said. “Between myself and [vice-captain] Pat Cummins, we will sit down and pick a couple of sides later today.
“First up it’s about getting a little bit of rust out, we haven’t played a competitive match for five months. I know guys will be feeling their way back so we have to understand that, but so long as we keep improving and every opportunity we get to perform that we learn from that…then we’ll be on the right track.”
With 21 to select from – an extra player is expected to come from the Hampshire staff for the warm-up matches – there will be no shortage of options for the final XIs when the internationals come around. The T20I side will be strengthened by the return of Glenn Maxwell who is likely to slot in at No. 5, possibly in place of Matthew Wade, who played the series against South Africa in March.
It is also likely that Maxwell will return to the ODI middle order with Australia still trying find the ideal balance to their batting order. Their first-choice pace attack of Mitchell Starc, Cummins and Josh Hazlewood is very strong while Adam Zampa plays a key role with his legspin. Wicketkeeper-batsman Josh Philippe, left-arm seamer Daniel Sams and quick bowler Riley Meredith are the three uncapped players.