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ICC World Twenty20 2014 Preview - Australia

Johnson and Haddin celebrate
Will Mitchell Johnson (centre) be fit to lead Australia's bowling attack from their first match?
©REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte. Picture Supplied by Action Images

Australia have to be in with a real shout of finally lifting the trophy this year after twice losing out in the semi-final stage and once in the final, to England in 2010.

They come off the back of resoundingly successful series against England and South Africa, where they whitewashed the former in both Test and Twenty20 International series and won a thrilling Test series against number one ranked South Africa before triumphing in the rain-affected Twenty20 International series.

A main reason for all of that success has been the re-emergence of Mitchell Johnson, who is a slight doubt for the start of the tournament with an infected toe*, as a fast-bowling force. No longer the widely mocked article of England fans’ derision, he is now arguably the best bowler in the world - at least in Test cricket. How effective he will be in Twenty20 cricket in the subcontinent remains to be seen but surely a ball delivered at 90mph is a fierce proposition whatever colour it is.

Australia’s squad overall is an interesting blend of youth and experience. They have recently recalled Brad Hodge and Cameron White after lengthy absences following their strong domestic showings in the Big Bash League, while Brad Hogg is still there to lead the spin attack despite being in his forties and will be the oldest player to play at a World T20. At the other end of the spectrum is 20 year-old leg-spinner James Muirhead, who was plucked from relative obscurity to bamboozle England in the recent T20 series.

The batting will be led from the top of the order by the destructive pairing of Aaron Finch and David Warner, who hit twin hundreds in his last Test match against South Africa. White, Hodge, skipper George Bailey and Glenn Maxwell will vie for places in the middle-order, with Shane Watson leading a bunch of exciting all-rounders which includes the highly-rated James Faulkner, Dan Christian and Nathan Coulter-Nile.

It is often said that in Twenty20 cricket, one should look at the bowling attack when predicting a winner and, it could be argued that, Johnson apart, Australia’s is weaker when compared with their batting. Mitchell Starc, Coulter-Nile, Muirhead and Faulkner don’t have vast reserves of international experience and none possesses the x-factor that the likes of Sri Lanka’s Lasith Malinga, Pakistan’s Saeed Ajmal or West Indies Sunil Narine undoubtedly do. The spin attack is the major bone of contention. Hogg hasn’t always been their first-choice twirler of late, while Muirhead is bound to be inconsistent as anyone who bowls leg-spin and is just 20 must be.

Nevertheless, anything less than another semi-final will be seen as a failure by a side who are hitting top form at just the right time - they haven’t lost any of their last six T20 matches - despite the fact that their group includes three of the four previous champions, including the defending ones.

Recent Form:
26th January: lost to Sri Lanka by 5 wickets at Stadium Australia
28th January: lost to Sri Lanka by 2 runs at MCG
13th February: lost to West Indies by 27 runs in Brisbane
29th August: beat England by 39 runs in Southampton
31st August: lost to England by 27 runs in Chester-le-Street
10th October: lost to India by 6 wickets in Rajkot
29th January: beat England by 13 runs in Hobart
31st January: beat England by 8 wickets at MCG
2nd February: beat England by 84 runs at Stadium Australia
9th March: no result against South Africa in Port Elizabeth
12th March: beat South Africa by 5 wickets in Durban
14th March: beat South Africa by 6 wickets in Centurion

Previous Tournament Performances:
2007: Lost in Semi-Final to eventual champions India
2009: Didn’t progress from Group C after losing to Sri Lanka and West Indies
2010: Lost in Final to England
2012: Lost in Semi-Final to eventual champions West Indies

Tournament Fixtures:
Group 2 opponents: India, Pakistan, Qualifier from Group A, West Indies
23rd March: v Pakistan in Mirpur
28th March: v West Indies in Mirpur
30th March: v India in Mirpur
1st April: v Qualifier in Mirpur

Squad: George Bailey (captain), Doug Bollinger, Dan Christian, Nathan Coulter-Nile, James Faulkner, Aaron Finch, Brad Haddin, Brad Hodge, Brad Hogg, Glenn Maxwell, James Muirhead, Mitchell Starc, David Warner, Shane Watson, Cameron White.

*It has since been confirmed that Mitchell Johnson has been ruled out of the tournament and will be replaced by Doug Bollinger.

© Cricket World 2014