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September 12, 2012
Consistently rapid starts from David Warner and Shane Watson are critical to Australia's chances of contending for the World Twenty20 title in Sri Lanka, the coach Mickey Arthur has said.
Alongside Michael Hussey in the middle order, Warner and Watson represent the most potent batting force in the Australian line-up. The rest of the team does not possess quite the same combination of power and touch, a fact the selectors have tried to compensate for by choosing a long batting line-up, stretching as far as No. 8.
Warner started the UAE tour in a muddle against quality spin, but grew in conviction and confidence over time. Watson has eased his way back after injury, but was striking the ball with all his former heft by the conclusion of the T20 series.
As Australia prepared to depart Dubai for Colombo, Arthur acknowledged that the 111-run stand put together by Warner and Watson in that final game needed to be the rule rather than the exception over the next month. He also said that early wickets to the young pacemen Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins would set a similar tone for Australia in the field.
"If you lose early wickets in this kind of format and you play a tentative brand you get yourself into trouble and that's where we were in game one," Arthur said. "It just shows the beginning of each of your innings are crucial.
"If your openers get you off to a really good start, you get momentum and it sets you up for a score. And then if your opening bowlers start the same way and you take early wickets, you can put the opposition under some real pressure."
Four ODIs and three T20 matches in the UAE did not dissuade Australia from the view that their greatest bowling strength lies in their pace attack. The left-arm spin of Xavier Doherty was employed just twice in seven games, and Brad Hogg may have confirmed his place as the sole specialist spinner with a tidy spell in the final T20. The allrounder Glenn Maxwell and the part-timer David Hussey can be expected to bowl their off spinners here and there.
"I've heard it so often said that pace doesn't play a role in the sub-continent," Arthur said. "Pace through the air plays a role anywhere. If the guys can deliver their variations, they're going to pick up a lot of wickets.
"The best way to stop the [scoring] rate in Twenty20 cricket is by taking wickets, so you need guys who do something a little bit different. So you want those x-factor players.
"We've got the x-factor of a little bit of pace. We don't possess a Saeed Ajmal, but we've got other guys who certainly compensate for that. Brad Hogg bowling through the middle overs has the ability like Saeed Ajmal has to take wickets."
Australia have warm-up fixtures against New Zealand and England on September 15 and 17 before taking on Ireland in their opening group match on September 19.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets hereFeeds: Daniel Brettig
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Stats highlights from the fourth ODI between India and West Indies in Dharamsala