June 18, 2019, 20:40

Australia are serial winners and in ominous form as they chase a sixth World Cup

Australia are serial winners and in ominous form as they chase a sixth World Cup

Five-nil.

It’s a scoreline that Australian cricket fans have been able to taunt their English counterparts with for years.

2006/07 Ashes: Australia 5 England 0. 2013/14 Ashes: Australia 5 England 0. World Cup wins: Australia 5 England 0.

Last summer though, the tables turned. As a full house at Old Trafford roared in celebration, Jos Buttler jumped and punched the air, triumphant. His magnificent century had secured not only a thrilling one-wicket win but an ODI series whitewash.

England 5 Australia 0.

In the three years that had passed since they lifted the 2015 Cricket World Cup, Australia had been on a steady decline in one-day cricket, but this was rock bottom. Not just beaten, humiliated, and until the final match, barely even competitive.

“I’ve said time and time again this series, once we’ve been put under pressure – whether it be with bat, ball or in the field – we’ve folded a little bit if we’re completely honest,” said captain Tim Paine.

Yet as they return to England 11 months on, the prospect of Australia lifting the World Cup for a sixth time is, remarkably, not unrealistic.

Justin Langer has had a little over a year to settle into his new role as head coach, Aaron Finch has replaced Paine as skipper and the Aussies have won their last eight ODIs.

Prior to that they had won only eight of their previous 33 one-dayers in a run stretching back to the start of 2017.

The last five of those eight consecutive wins came in the UAE as Pakistan were put to the sword, Finch scoring two centuries and averaging 112.75 in the series to guide his team to a clean sweep.

Five-nil.

Perhaps more impressive, and certainly more ominously for their rivals, is that the three wins prior to that came in India, against Virat Kohli’s much-fancied side.

Having lost the first game, Australia fell agonisingly short in the second before winning the third comfortably.

The standout performance though, came in the fourth ODI in Chandigarh where India posted 358-9, only for the tourists to chase it down with time to spare thanks to a superb hundred from Peter Handscomb and a blistering 83no from 43 balls from Ashton Turner.

Usman Khawaja’s century laid the foundations for victory in the series-decider in Delhi and, as the results show, that confidence was carried into the Pakistan series.

Crucially, given the demands of a six-week tournament, Australia’s resurgence has involved significant contributions from a number of different players. Finch was imperious in the UAE but Glenn Maxwell, Shaun Marsh and Khawaja all averaged over 50 as well.

In India it was the ever-impressive Pat Cummins to the fore, taking 14 wickets, with 11 for Adam Zampa, and Turner, Handscomb and Marcus Stoinis, as well as Khawaja, making their mark with the bat.

This is a team all pulling in the same direction, with momentum and with now a further two world class batsmen, fresh from a 12-month break, at their disposal.

Like it or not – and no doubt plenty of fans across the country will be delighted to let them know their views during the course of the summer – Steve Smith and David Warner are back.

They have had a year to dry their eyes and prepare themselves, presumably by getting friends and family to hurl insults at them while waving sandpaper in their general direction.

What is clear though is the one-day team that they return to is in a far better place than the one they left. The confidence and swagger that was deteriorating even prior to the ball-tampering scandal, and utterly decimated in the initial aftermath of it, is back.

Of course, there is always the possibility that disrupting a winning team could have a detrimental effect, potentially unbalance the side and certainly Handscomb, who missed out on the squad to make room for Smith and Warner has reason to feel aggrieved.

Conversely, the addition of two of the world’s finest batsmen, with a point to prove and determined to make up for lost time, can only be a good thing for Australia.

Strange as it might seem given the very public mess they found themselves in last year, there is a certain inevitability about Australia coming good just in time for a World Cup. It is what they do.

Smith and Warner are among those who won in last time while Langer was part of an all-conquering side in his playing days.

England go in to the tournament as favourites but one thing they lack is the knowledge of what it takes to win a World Cup, how it feels, the experience of having done it before. Australia have that in abundance. They know how to win when it matters.

Four World Cup wins in the last five tournaments shows you that and the first of those triumphs came in England, in 1999.

The white-ball game has changed considerably in the 20 years since but Australia’s winning mentality and knack of finding form in time for the World Cup remains.

Source: skysports.com

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