Head-ache? For Australia -Leftie shortage looms for Sri Lanka T20s
Australia will not have a single specialist left-handed batter to call upon for the start of their Dettol International T20 series against Sri Lanka.
Vodafone Ashes player-of-the-series Travis Head has been released from the Aussies’ T20 International squad and will instead get a final red-ball tune-up in the Marsh Sheffield Shield for South Australia this week before leaving for the all-format tour of Pakistan later this month.
Fast-bowling allrounder Daniel Sams has replaced Head in a 16-man squad eager to impress ahead of the T20 World Cup in Australia later this year. Head will return for the final two matches of the series in Melbourne.With David Warner – who has dominated Sri Lanka recently with scores of 100no, 60no, 57no and 65 in his past four T20I innings against them – also rested for the series, it leaves Australia decisively short of lefties.
Wicketkeeper Matthew Wade has extensive experience batting in the top three in short-form cricket but saved his international career at last year’s T20 World Cup by thriving in a ‘finishing’ role, playing a famous hand to claim an impossible semi-final win over Pakistan.That match-winning performance capped off a strong campaign in which he averaged 74 with the bat and held a strike-rate of 164.44 to virtually guarantee he will keep the gloves over the highly-rated Josh Inglis when the Aussies defend their T20 crown from October.
If they were to use Wade to break up the glut of right-handers in the five matches against the Lankans, it would mean pulling him away from the six-seven spot in which he performed so well during that tournament.It poses an interesting question for an Australian team coming up against a Sri Lankan side led by the world’s No.1 ranked T20I bowler, leg-spinner Wanindu Hasaranga.
Wrist spin has been an Achilles heel of the Australians in the shortest format while Hasaranga, who dismissed Glenn Maxwell and Aaron Finch at the World Cup, has bewitched right-handers in a remarkable start to his international career.The 24-year-old has taken 52 wickets at 13.71 in his 33 T20Is since his debut in September 2019.
Of those 52 victims, 43 have been right-handed, and 29 of those were bowled or lbw. That wicket-taking prowess combined with his suffocating economy rate of 6.21 means Hasaranga will likely dominate Australia’s planning meetings for the five-match series.
The other left-hand batting option at the hosts’ disposal is the dynamic Ashton Agar, who was brutally unlucky to miss most of Australia’s World Cup campaign having been one of the T20 side’s leading performers in the years leading into the tournament.The allrounder has since reminded selectors of his capabilities as a T20 package, helping Perth Scorchers to the BBL title with 18 wickets at an economy rate of 6.79 while also collecting 133 runs at a strike-rate touching 150.Agar has only batted above six once in 40 previous T20Is, but his improvement with the bat could see him deployed higher up.
Left-handers overlooked for this series were two strong KFC BBL performers who have struggled to make the same impact in T20Is: ‘keeper Alex Carey has a career average of 11 and strike-rate of 108.38 in the format; and D’Arcy Short, who might have been in the running to claim the opening spot vacated by Warner if not for a sluggish BBL|11 strike-rate of 113.26.
Ben McDermott could be given an extended run at the top instead alongside captain Aaron Finch, while Steve Smith may move back up to No.3 ahead of Glenn Maxwell and Marcus Stoinis, with World Cup star Mitch Marsh rested for the series.