Glenn Maxwell is back in Australia’s ODI squad for the first time since last year’s India tour but it is perception, not personnel or tactics, that is dragging down the team’s limited-overs set-up, according to coach Darren Lehmann.
The day after Maxwell joined the chorus of voices stating that Australia need to raise their batting tempo or fall behind in the 50-over format, he was added to the squad as cover for Aaron Finch. The leading run-scorer on either side in this series so far, Finch will miss the Australia Day match in Adelaide with a hamstring strain. More likely than a Maxwell recall, however, is the return of Travis Head to the top of the order, a year to the day after he added a world-record 284 with David Warner against Pakistan.
But in the same week the selection chairman Trevor Hohns stated that Australia’s ODI methods needed to be reviewed, Lehmann offered a somewhat different opinion, arguing that the team is “not as far off as the results say” and that performing better in the “key moments” would lead to victories. It is the second time in his coaching tenure that Lehmann has deflected calls for change around the team – he notably bristled at the team performance manager Pat Howard’s suggestion that he needed to “reinvent” himself as a coach after the loss of five consecutive Test matches in 2016.
“We’re a bit short with the bat to be perfectly honest,” Lehmann told 5AA radio. “We’ve been 20 or 30 short each game, and then our bowling up front hasn’t been as good as we’d like and then the last five or six overs the other night cost us 74.
“[Jos] Buttler played really well but at the end of the day we’re just losing those key moments. Unlike the Test matches, not capitalising on good starts or going on with big hundreds etc etc. A bit of work to do in that format, we’re not as far off as the results say, but you’ve got to win and change perceptions there.
“It’s playing the way we need to play to win games of one-day cricket. You can dissect every game and we’ve been short with the bat in pretty much all those games, 20-30 runs, and when we were winning we weren’t short, we were always over-clubbed by 30 or 40 runs, so for us that’s first, get the order right, play the way we need to play and finish innings off. We’ve had bowlers batting in the last five overs, which is a no-no, you need your batters batting then and then you can capitalise in the last few overs.
Head, who after an underwhelming series of displays at No. 4 for Australia in recent appearances in India and at home, rediscovered some form with a half-century for Adelaide Strikers in the Big Bash League. He said it was vital Australia found a way to beat England even though the series had been decided. The two teams will square off again in another five-match series in England later this year, before the 2019 World Cup in the same country.
“It’s not just this series,” Head said. “It goes on, white-ball cricket, for the rest of the summer and we’ve got series coming up in the off-season for us. So it’s very important to try to find a way to beat them. They’re playing extremely well at the minute. We probably haven’t played the way we would’ve liked. We need to play that attacking brand and take them on.”
Looking back over his ODI series, Head said he was particularly irritated at the way he played in the second match in Brisbane, where he was part of a slow fade with the bat that resulted in the Australians posting a mere 270 on a good surface and then lost his place for the Sydney encounter.
“I feel like I’ve been playing well in the Big Bash, but I’m pretty disappointed with the way I’ve started in this series,” he said. “I know it’s there; I’ve just got to try and find it.
“I feel confident in my game in the middle. I just didn’t play the way I would’ve liked, especially in Brisbane. I was probably a little bit indecisive in my decision-making, which cost me. And I don’t think you can be. To be able to go back the other night [with the Strikers] I was really happy not so much with the way I finished but the way I started.
“If my tempo’s there and if the way I’m hitting the ball’s there, it’s just a mindset thing for me. I’m happy to bat wherever. I’ve said as high as I can bat is nice. I think everyone in world cricket would say the same thing in white-ball cricket, to bat as high as they possibly can. But I’m just happy to get my opportunity again after a pretty disappointing first two games.”