It seems like an inevitable, excruciating and drawn out demise for Australia. Their dream of belated World T20 glory continues to linger but appears delusional. Simply, from the two matches they’ve played thus far in the tournament, Australia does not deserve a semi-final spot. They are unlikely to progress deep into the ICC World T20 unless they receive some divine intervention.
Clearly, this wasn’t the resounding statement Australia would have hoped for in a desperate bid to get their rickety World T20 campaign back on track. It was an ugly and unimpressive win. If it wasn’t for Bangladesh’s fielding slumping to comic levels, Australia could have realistically lost the un-losable and been knocked out of the tournament.
The Aussies breathed a sigh of relief and dodged major embarrassment after a three-wicket victory over a depleted Bangladesh in Bengaluru on Monday night. But there was no cause for celebration for skipper Steve Smith and his team.
After such an uninspired performance, Australians appear to be the walking dead. So many questions remain unanswered. It is evident that a hastily put together team is struggling to mesh. Players seem uncertain of their specific roles and it is doubtful anyone can make sense of the scatterbrain tactics.
Australian teams always have a whiff of arrogance about them, even when they are not particularly good. Usually they feel entitled, like they truly believe it is their destiny to win. Their bravado often is enough to overwhelm inferior teams.
Right now, that confidence is missing. Smith’s men look vulnerable and have a noticeable air of fragility. You feel they can sense it. Australia possess a dominating and proud cricket history but not in T20s where they have mainly dark and depressing memories. They can’t trade on their lore of yesteryear, not in this format anyway.
You also sense that the opposition aren’t intimidated by them. Not even Bangladesh, who are arguably the worst team in the Super 10 and were missing a trio of key players. At various times in the match it appeared a formality that Australia would win convincingly and regain their lost swagger.
But it never eventuated. Inexplicably, Australia repeatedly let Bangladesh off the hook. The same worrying issues arose: inept death bowling and a puzzling middle-order collapse due to brainless batting.
On a flat pitch offering little spin, the Baggy Greens found conditions to their liking and, accordingly, started well after Smith sent Bangladesh in. They bowled accurately and tightly with leg-spinner Adam Zampa showing what he is capable of.
Zampa was clearly Australia’s shining light and provides some hope for a turnaround. Bowling against batsmen highly adept at playing spin, Zampa had the impressive figures of 3-23 from four accurate overs. Zampa wasn’t noticeably menacing as he was unable to conjure much spin from the staid pitch but, impressively, Australia’s sole frontline spinner backed his instincts.
He wasn’t afraid to give the ball flight and he did manage to find enough drift to worry the batsmen.Perhaps the main reason he was selected in the World T20 over spinning competitors Cameron Boyce and Nathan Lyon was because of his famed tenaciousness and ability to fight back after being smacked around, arequisite trait in the T20 format.
That resoluteness was showcased when Shuvagata Hom attacked him before Zampa fought back and claimed his wicket. The leg-spinner’s control was excellent in the middle overs, and, importantly, he regained the trust of his captain. Zampa only bowled one over against New Zealand, as Smith was seemingly spooked to use his frontline spinners.
If Australia are going to progress from Group 2, then Zampa will be heavily relied upon to perform at a similar level against Pakistan and India. Ashton Agar, fresh from a disastrous solo over against New Zealand, is unlikely to be recalled leaving the burden on Zampa’s tender shoulders.
You feel Smith would have loved the menacing Boyce or the experienced Lyon right now.
Chasing a seemingly innocuous 157, Australia once again started swiftly with Usman Khawaja dazzling with a combination of power and finesse underlying why he is being preferred over Aaron Finch.
But when fellow opener Shane Watson was dismissed after sluggishly-attempted second run, Australia became tangled in a familiar knot. An out-of-touch Smith is stifling momentum at No.3 and you sense Dave Warner, strangely batting at No.4, is craving a swap with his captain.
The middle-order is explosive but also entirely unreliable and some astonishingly reckless batting from them nearly ended their campaign.
Taking heed from history, it is always folly to write off Australia. But as we are quickly grasping, the Aussies in the T20 format need to be judged by a different set of expectations.
Australia live to fight another day, but the end is seemingly nigh.