Two formats, eleven games, three wins. Thus ends the first chapter in Australia’s new era after their defeat to Pakistan in the final of the T20 tri-series in Zimbabwe. But while they have lost more than they have won over the last month, they have gained in experience according to new coach Justin Langer, who also hinted that Aaron Finch could assume the role of captain across both limited-overs formats.
“After this tour we’ll have a really, really close look at everything we’re doing at the moment including our leadership, which is such an incredibly high priority in Australian cricket,” Langer said. “Finchy has definitely put his best foot forward in this series. So we’ll look at that. We’ll look at all our staff. We’ll look at everything to make sure we keep flying forward, as is the expectation of the Australian cricket team.”
After England’s 5-0 ODI hammering in England last month, Langer had conceded that Australia would need to work out whether Tim Paine was the right man to captain them in that format. Finch’s performances in this tri-series will certainly bolster his credentials for the role; he was the leading run-scorer, with 306 runs in five innings at a strike rate of 201.31, including a world-record 172 against Zimbabwe. He is second only to Fakhar Zaman in terms of overall T20I runs in 2018.
“He’s been brilliant,” Langer said. “Finchy and I spoke privately yesterday and I told him he’s done a great job at the top of the order. To have someone that dynamic is a great example to all our players. As we saw from Pakistan today, you’ve got to play fearless cricket. D’Arcy [Short] started taking steps towards that today, like we’ve seen from him in Big Bash cricket. That’s how he needs to play his cricket.”
Australia also have the leading wicket-taker in T20Is this year in Andrew Tye, but, as Finch pointed out, taking wickets will only get you so far in T20 cricket if you’re not also stopping the flow of runs.
“When we’re having a big over, they’re very big,” Finch said. “Ten overs over 10 today, one over 20. Not a great way to structure a bowling performance. You’re always going to be under pressure regardless of how many wickets you take if they’re some of your stats. It’s just about guys getting back to the basics and making sure that they’re executing when there’s no pressure on so that when the time comes in a final like this, they’re confident in their skills and able to deliver.”
Australia appeared to have the second half of the match well under their control when Glenn Maxwell struck twice in the first over, but Fakhar and Sarfraz Ahmed, and then Fakhar and Shoaib Malik led Pakistan’s riposte with the bat to wrest back control and hurt Australia’s bowlers “badly”.
“You can’t take anything for granted against the number one team in the world,” said Finch. “Or any international team. They’ll hurt you if you’re complacent. I don’t think we were complacent, I think with the ball we just mis-executed and got hurt badly. Guys had really good plans, but just missed slightly, and that’s all it needs to be in T20 cricket against good players.”
While Australia won’t be leaving Zimbabwe with the tri-series trophy, they have at least gained considerably in experience – the lack of which has created an imbalance in Australia’s squad, according to Langer.
“I think we’ve shown, throughout this series and in England, just our lack of experience,” said Langer. “The only way you get experience is by number one, playing, but also having some really tough experiences. We’ve certainly seen that in England, and also the last two times we’ve played Pakistan. They’re the number one team in the world.
“Whilst it looks horrible on the surface to lose, I think looking at the bigger picture, I was very impressed with the way Jhye Richardson and Billy Stanlake stood up today. They’re both really young cricketers, but besides Jhye’s last over, he fielded brilliantly and bowled really well. Billy’s been good throughout the series. So there’s some great experience for those guys. We’ve shown our inexperience over the last six weeks, but we’ll be much better for it.
“To have a couple of experienced guys who are playing well, like Glenn Maxwell, Finchy and AJ Tye is awesome,” added Langer. “In a great team you’ve usually got eight of those sort of players with a couple of younger players. We’ve probably got three experienced players with eight very inexperienced players. So the balance isn’t quite right at the moment, but hopefully moving forward we’ll get that balance back as we usually have in an Australian cricket team.”