MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Six months after being slammed by critics, Australia’s one-day team is building nicely in the lead up to the Cricket World Cup with all the players singing from the same song sheet, captain Aaron Finch has said.
Resurgent Australia completed a 5-0 whitewash of Pakistan in Dubai on Sunday, with all top four batsmen posting half-centuries in a commanding 20-run win, the team’s eighth in succession.
The turnaround, which included a 3-2 series win in India prior to the United Arab Emirates tour, is all the more remarkable given that it comes in the wake of a six-series losing streak dating back to January 2016.
“If you think back to six months ago, a lot of people were slamming us, a lot of people were writing us off for not just one-day cricket but all forms of cricket,” Finch told reporters.
“When you’re building towards something and you’ve changed a bit of your strategy and game plan, I think it can take a little bit of time to develop.
“It took a bit of time for guys maybe to fully buy into it and believe that it was the right way to play one-day cricket and the right strategy to go with.”
As Australia stumbled through a dreadful 2018 in the wake of the Cape Town ball-tampering scandal, Finch’s poor form with the bat was emblematic of the team’s struggles.
The stocky opening batsman has played a huge part in the team’s revival, however, smashing 451 runs at an average of 112.75 against Pakistan to top the runs list and be named player of the series.
Finch was dismissed for under 50 just once against Pakistan and fell only 27 runs short of George Bailey’s Australian record of 478 for the most runs scored in a bilateral series.
“It was probably my most consistent (series) as a batter,” said Finch.
“I think if you look back through my career, there’s been times when I’ve got a couple of hundreds an there will be some really low scores in there as well.
“It was nice to get a good start each game and still kicking myself at a couple of chances, (and innings) where I could have gone on and got some really big match-winning scores.”
Finch’s opening partnership with Usman Khawaja has been a huge success, with the latter third on the runs list with 272 at an average of 54.40 against Pakistan after also dominating with the bat against Virat Kohli’s India.
Australia’s rejuvenation has come without opener David Warner and former captain Steve Smith, who were suspended for ball-tampering until March 29, and minus injured first-choice fast bowlers Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood.
Warner, meanwhile, has given selectors a headache by hammering a 55-ball century in the Indian Premier League on Sunday, continuing his brilliant start in the Twenty20 tournament with Sunrisers Hyderabad.
“We know categorically there are going to be one or two guys brutally unlucky not to get selected because they’re all going so well,” Australia coach Justin Langer said of the World Cup squad, slated to be named next week.
“The blokes in the squad at the moment will be praying it’s not them.”
Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Peter Rutherford