West Indies vs Australia 1st T20I Preview: Sans big stars, Australia take on dangerous WI
If West Indies can find form and consistency, they have the potential to blow away Australia who are without Pat Cummins, David Warner, Glenn Maxwell, Marcus Stoinis, Jhye Richardson, Daniel Sams, Kane Richardson and Steven Smith.
Australia back after strange 4-month break
With all the cricket going around, it is strange that a cricketing powerhouse like Australia played their last international match, a T20I against New Zealand, on March 7 this year. Four months on, they are set to resume International action.
Even against New Zealand, several of Australia's first-choice players were not picked due to the Test series against South Africa, which never materialized. Australia started slowly but then came back, ultimately losing the series 2-3.
Finch and Agar, the in-form Aussies
Captain Aaron Finch shrugged off indifferent form to score 197 runs from five innings at an average of almost 50 and a strike rate of close to 135. Josh Philippe was a revelation at the top of the order and made 105 runs at a strike rate of 120. Matthew Wade also played a couple of decent knocks, going at a strike rate of 137.50.
With ball in hand, Ashton Agar did most of the damage, picking up 8 wickets including a 5-wicket haul. Kane Richardson was their next best bowler with 7 wickets from 5 innings but he is not available for the upcoming fixtures.
Richardson though is not alone. Several other Australian stars have pulled out of the series against West Indies and Bangladesh to give themselves enough time to rest and be ready for the upcoming IPL, T20 World Cup and the Ashes. While David Warner, Glenn Maxwell, Marcus Stoinis, Jhye Richardson and Daniel Sams made themselves unavailable, Steven Smith is injured.
Australia are looking to change the composition of their side. This means that pace bowling all-rounder Dan Christian is set to return to international cricket after 4 years.
Opportunity for Henriques, McDermott
With Aaron Finch and Matthew Wade at the top, Australia will have to make do with all-rounders Mitchell Marsh and Moises Henriques in the middle order. Ben McDermott and Ashton Turner are competing for a role in the middle order, with McDermott likely to get the nod.
Josh Philippe has impressed in his short International career at the top of the order, but is likely to bat in the middle order with all-rounders Dan Christian and Ashton Agar lengthening Australia's batting.
Mitchell Starc returns to the Australian T20I set-up after a long time. He will get the support of Adam Zampa. In the absence of Kane and Jhye Richardson, Riley Meredith or Josh Hazlewood is expected to be a part of the XI. A lot will depend on Agar and Zampa as spin is likely to play a major role in the series.
Hosts plagued by inconsistency
West Indies started the recently-concluded 5-match T20 series against South Africa with a lot of promise but fizzled out as the series moved forward.
Evin Lewis was the standout batsman with 178 runs at an average of 35 and a strike rate in excess of 160. Lendl Simmons also got 72 from three games and will partner Lewis at the top of the order.
WI's concerns - Middle order and quality spinner
West Indies' problem is the inconsistency of their middle order. The likes of Nicholas Pooran and Shimron Hetmyer will have to come good for them to win against Australia.
With ball in hand, Dwayne Bravo and Obed McCoy impressed with 10 and 9 wickets respectively and will lead the charge for the home side. Fidel Edwards is likely to be the third pacer, with the team having the options of all-rounders Andre Russell and Kieron Pollard as well. In the absence of Fabian Allen, Kevin Sinclair will be West Indies' lone spinner.
Here's a look at the probable playing XIs:
West Indies - Evin Lewis, Lendl Simmons, Chris Gayle, Shimron Hetmyer, Kieron Pollard, Nicholas Pooran, Andre Russell, Dwayne Bravo, Kevin Sinclair, Obed McCoy, Fidel Edwards
Australia - Aaron Finch, Matthew Wade (wk), Mitchell Marsh, Moises Henriques, Ben McDermott, Josh Philippe, Dan Christian, Ashton Agar, Mitchell Starc, Adam Zampa, Riley Meredith/Josh Hazlewood
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