The ICC World T20 is days away and the warm up matches have begun.
I have never read too much into warm up matches but in a format like Twenty20 it certainly gives team an extra hop in their step if they can put in an all round performance, win or lose.
Our victory against Pakistan in the third T20 was one of these matches for George Bailey and team.
We got to see the capability of our side when there is input from key players and the bowlers systematically produce the goods on the back of their bowling partners input. It takes just one or two bad overs to release the pressure valve but the other night our bowlers were collectively outstanding and the pressure make Pakistan fold.
This article I've looked at our perceived strengths and weaknesses, as well as the opportunities and threats that lie ahead.
For the initial fixtures, you can click here to view the upcoming matches.
Tomorrow the boys take on New Zealand in a warm-up match.
Australian T20 Squad: (to read the initial squad article, have a read here)
David Warner (Batsman), Shane Watson (All-rounder), Matthew Wade (wk), David Hussey (All-rounder), Michael
Hussey (Batsman), George Bailey (captain) (Batsman), Cameron White (Batsman), Daniel Christian (All-rounder), Glenn
Maxwell (All-rounder), Brad Hogg (Bowler), Xavier Doherty (Bowler), Clint McKay (Bowler), Mitchell Starc (Bowler), Pat
Cummins (Bowler), Ben Hilfenhaus (Bowler).
Last 10 matches: Won 4, Lost 5, Tied 1 (lost in super over).
Without question there's a duo in our side that our opponents will see as their core focus to knock over.
That is the opening duo if David Warner and Shane Watson. If the two of them come off in the same innings, which is unlikely to be inconsistent, then they can get us into a position that will have any captain or coach in a cold sweat.
The last T20 against Pakistan saw this happen and their brutal stand of 111 was only beginning to ignite. Warner was in a bad place during the UAE but he came into his own during the T20s but his skill to be so innovative and attacking with his shot selection is breathtaking and an ever present advantage, while Shane Watson depends on targeting the deep-mid wicket or long on regions with powerful lofted shots.
Our dependency on these two should be not be seen as too worrying given the middle order may not be explosive but there's a strong element of control and composure which should never be overlooked in T20 cricket.
Michael Hussey is still an awesome batsman and can turn a game around in such a stealth-like manner before stealing the entire show as the man of the moment. His balance and focus is vital for us.
Glenn Maxwell is new to the side but his confident manner is what we've needed. He comes out brings the axe down on his opponents and wastes little time to get the momentum in his favour. This tournament provides him with a massive opportunity but most importantly he can add a hitting we once had in Andrew Symonds, which may be needed if Cameron White is unable to come off.
He played in the 3rd T20 against Pakistan at the expense of David Hussey which actually worked well for us. I wouldn't be surprised if Dussey is not played in the opening games. Despite his experience he has struggled for consistency season in, season out.
Our young bowlers go into the tournament as the most exciting young bowling duo. This is Patrick Cummins and Mitchell Starc, who is on the rise as one incredible limited overs bowler. With a bit of movement on offer and bowling to the fields set by George Bailey, the two of them will be exciting to watch.
While a batting line up with Michael Hussey, Cam White, Glenn Maxwell, Matthew Wade, David Hussey or Dan Christian may appear as one with depth, the concern is the dependency on the Warner/ Watson partnership.
A major drive to our potential success will be either of the two having a big innings in each and every game. Sure, no one should doubt our other batsmen but its a logical point that Warner and Watson are explosive batsmen and can change a game with destructive consequences and this applies in both instances where they score big runs or none at all.
Our batting in all forms of the game has been inconsistent and too often there's a big gap between our best Twenty20 cricket and our worst. The batting is vital and with a line up that has a handicap against spin bowling, facing up to teams in Sri Lankan conditions presents a hard challenge.
I won't be surprised if both the West Indies and even Ireland turn to spin early on in our innings. Sunil Narine will definitely be a guy we'll need to target.
If our bowlers bowl second to defend a target they will need runs on the board. As much as I like our balance, the pressure may be too much if they have to protect low targets in our opening games. Runs on the boards and they'll thrive.
Any major tournament presents a chance for new faces to take advantage of the crowds watching cricketers battle in the gladiator arena. Twenty20 allows players to make a quick impression and we have a few players who already made an impression in the UAE.
Glenn Maxwell is in a position to make the attacking all-rounder position we so desperately need into his own. Mitchell Starc is taking wickets left, right and center of the wicket, Matthew Wade still has Tim Paine and Brad Haddin making their way back, David Warner has had a quiet run, while Brad Hogg and Michael Hussey are showing that Twenty20 is a format even the older blokes can make an impact and leave the youngsters in the dark!
Most importantly this is a chance for us to work on that ranking everyone is talking about and against Ireland and West Indies if we play our best cricket then it will be a highly prospective chance of getting to the second stage.
The West Indies are a side I tip to win the tournament - if we don't.
They're a side I follow with great enthusiasm and believe they have the goods. Its common knowledge they should be our toughest contest on paper. Sunil Narine has made an impression the shorter forms of the game and he'll be the Windies go to man.
The threat of spin friendly conditions will be known and the sub-continent sides; Pakistan, Sri Lanka and India, will be licking their lips.
Rankings don't have as a big a say in Twenty20 cricket when it comes to raw cricket ability and team culture. Twenty20 ranks can shift very quickly and I would never dismiss our side based on ranks, keeping in mind we were the runners up for the last tournament in the Caribbean.
Bottom line is that the playing field is open but if we play our best cricket and our batsmen can combat the ever present threat of spin then we have a mighty good chance to finally get our hands on this trophy!
Teams to watch out for?
West Indies, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and India.
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