All of a sudden, Australia are good at cricket again, even at T20 cricket. Especially at Twenty/20 cricket, after starting our home international cricket schedule with a 5-0 winning streak, plus one no-result.
And we would have won that one as well, had rain not intervened.
In the first of three T20Is against Pakistan, Australia were cruising at 0/41 off 3.1 overs, chasing 119 off 15 overs to win. Duckworth-Lewis required them to score 33 at the completion of the minimum five overs required to constitute a match. They could have blocked the last 11 balls and would still have won by 8 runs. Pakistan’s only chance was to take a wicket or two.
We can argue that that is an unfair rule, that teams who get the five over target up before the five overs have finished should be awarded the match. But then that favours the team who bats second, who can’t lose, but can win. What if Australia were 0/25 off 3.1 overs? Would they have been declared losers or would it have remained a no-result? Either way, had they not taken a 10 minute innings break in spite of the rain delay, they would have had enough time to finish the match.
Not that Australia mind too much, as they beat Pakistan 2-0 and Sri Lanka 3-0. The only difference is that perhaps Australia would have been ranked first ahead of Pakistan, rather than their current ranking of second.
Australia were nervous heading into their first match of the summer, against the weakened Sri Lankan side, who are in a period of rebuilding. A 36-year-old Lasith Malinga is still there, but there isn’t much else.
David Warner, for his part, was coming off a terrible Ashes, where he failed to reach double figures in 9 of his 10 test innings, though he had been wonderful in the World Cup that came before it. But here, against Sri Lanka, he was amazing, scoring an even 100 off 56 balls. Glenn Maxwell was fantastic as well, getting 62 off 28, and Aaron Finch did pretty well too with his 64 off 36. There were no failures, as Australia got to 2/233 off their 20 overs, a total far above the international average score of 160.
Sri Lanka, for their part, never got going, eventually losing 9 wickets as they only managed 99 runs of their target of 234, and never looked any kind of chance. It was disappointing as a contest, though it was good for both Australia and David Warner. Starc, Cummins and Zampa were great on the bowling front as well.
The second T20I was technically closer, as Sri Lanka batted first and managed 117, a full 18 runs more than in the first match. Australia made light work of it though and got there without losing a wicket, taking just 13 overs in the process. David Warner was the star in the Aussies chase and got a second man of the match award out of two.
The third T20I was a much better contest, with Sri Lanka posting a semi-competitive 142. Warner again at the top scored his third consecutive half-century in a row, en route to his 3rd man of the match award out of 3. It was Sri Lanka at their best, but Australia were better.
Much like the result of the matches, the player of the series award was never in serious doubt. David Warner, with three man of the match awards out of three, and more than double the runs of the 2nd highest run-scorer, was the only choice. An impressive turnaround from his Ashes failures.
Then Australia faced a much bigger challenge, as they faced the world number one T20I team Pakistan. On one hand, we had David Warner in great form and the Australian team were doing well, but there was no guarantee that it would be enough.
The first match perhaps didn’t count, as rain fell with Pakistan at 3/88 in 12.4 overs, then only had 2.2 more overs, getting up to 5/107 off 15 when rain fell. Perhaps they would have managed 150 or more, had there been no rain, but it is hard to tell, and Duckworth-Lewis declared the target to be 119 off 15 overs for Australia. Australia were 0/41 off 3.1 overs when rain fell, with Aaron Finch on 37 off 16 and David Warner on 2 off 4.
Pakistan had a much better 2nd T20I, getting all the way to 6/150 with Babar Azam managing 50 off 38 opening the innings, and Iftikhar Ahmed a barnstorming 62 not out off just 34 balls with three towering 6s It looked like Pakistan might just win.
With Warner out for 20, his first time out in five matches, and the first score under 50, Pakistan had a lot of hope. When Finch joining him for just 17, and Glenn Maxwell on indefinite leave with mental health issues, we didn’t know if the rest could do it.
But they could, and Steve Smith showed that he isn’t just in good test form – he is in good form, as he piled on an incredible 80 off 51 balls not out. With 11 fours and a 6 he nursed Ben McDermott and Ashton Turner towards Australia’s victory in the 19th over.
Pakistan could yet draw the series with a win in the third and final T20I, even though it would have felt unfair. But Pakistan at least did the right thing by the Australian crowd as they crumbled to 106 all out. Sean Abbott celebrating his return to international cricket after a five year hiatus with 2/14 with Ifthikar Ahmed the only resistance with 45 off 37.
Once again, Warner and Finch were unbeaten, though Warner failed to get to his half-century, finishing on 48 not out, though Finch got his, with 52, as Australia piled on 109 runs off just 11.5 overs as Pakistan were put to the sword.
Out of six matches, five of them completed, we only had one worth watching, the 2nd one, where Steve Smith rescued Australia, and even that one wasn’t all that close. Perhaps the third match against Sri Lanka was vaguely reasonable to watch, but the rest weren’t.
After Warner’s Player of the Series performance against Sri Lanka, Steve Smith received the same award for the series against Pakistan. It was telling that the two players who were banned for a year each were the difference between what may have been close matches and series to very one-sided encounters.
Next year Australia host the World T20 for the first time, and, if they keep this form, then they are a chance.
But before Australia get too excited, we probably should look at how England and New Zealand are going. They just played a tied T20 international to go with their tied World Cup final, and England were awarded the winners, as they were in the World Cup final. Now that would have been worth watching!
India are going to be big competitors too, as they consider themselves the best team in the world right now, and let’s not forget that Pakistan are still the world number 1 team, and perhaps they can improve between now and then. They were fantastic in 2018, but had a poor 2019, and the difference between lots of wins and lots of losses can be very narrow.
And let’s not forget West Indies, the big T20 team, who could easily come to Australia and lift the trophy.
A good couple of series to start the Australian summer, and it is great to see how well Warner and Smith have gone, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.