Smith and Warner return to cricket as Australia’s batting stocks rise

Smith and Warner return to cricket as Australia’s batting stocks rise
Steve Smith has returned to professional cricket in the IPL. Photo: Naparazzi, Wikimedia Commons

After having not won a series in two years just a few weeks ago Australia is suddenly shaping up as a major contender for the ODI World Cup in June. With the team’s sudden return to form against India and Pakistan, as well as the returns of Steve Smith and David Warner to professional cricket, there are suddenly more strong batting options then there are places to put them – an unfamiliar problem for Australian cricket teams!

Aaron Finch, who was under immense pressure, reverted to something close to his career average in the India series before smashing the Pakistani attack for two centuries – the second one 153 not out – in the first two games of the series. Shaun Marsh, who has been Australia’s best batsman in the format for the past year, struggled in India but has so far scored 91* and 11* against Pakistan.

Warner made a stunning return from suspension in the Indian Premier League, smashing 85 off 53 balls. Smith’s return was more muted – he got off to a strong start, scoring 20 off 11, but then was caught by a screamer. The pair look certain to be a part of Australia’s World Cup squad, with Warner in particular demanding an immediate spot.

Usman Khawaja, Finch’s opening partner, is in the best ODI form of his career, as is Peter Handscomb. Marcus Stoinis is bowling exceptionally well, and is in reasonable form with the bat, while Glenn Maxwell is essential for his ability to rapidly accumulate runs. Ashton Turner also rocketed into contention with a knock of 84 off 43 to chase down India.

Including Smith and Warner, that makes 9 batsmen in contention for spots in the World Cup line up – in a team that can only fit six. If Handscomb is made the wicket keeper (in place of Alex Carey, who is in good form with the gloves and decent but not exceptional with the bat) then that still leaves 8 strong candidates for 6 spots – a good problem to have!

There are also plenty of bowlers doing well, both with spin and pace. Jhye Richardson dislocated his shoulder against Pakistan, which will be a big loss, but with Mitchell Starc returning from injury Australia will still boast a potent new ball and death pairing, with Pat Cummins also in fantastic form.