Smith urges sensible batting in middle overs
Australia captain Steven Smith has pulled up his batsmen for the team's eight-run defeat to New Zealand.
Ahead of the opening match of their World Twenty20 campaign in Dharamsala, Smith had stressed the need for his players to bat smartly during the middle overs, to look for gaps and take the safer route to runs if the conditions did not warrant the going-for-broke approach.
Instead, after Usman Khawaja and Shane Watson made a brisk start against the new ball, Australia's batsmen did the exact opposite, losing their way against New Zealand's spinners and throwing away wickets trying to play the big shots.
"I think when the ball got a little bit older, it chewed up pretty quickly and as you could see there was quite a bit of spin," Smith said. "That's always difficult to play. Credit to the New Zealand bowlers, they got the ball in the right areas and made us play some pretty average shots.
"For us it is about finding a way between overs seven and 15, trying to build a few partnerships. It might not be about clearing the fence, it might be about getting a lot of singles, getting off strike, getting lots of twos, something that we haven't done so well and didn't do well again today."
Chasing New Zealand's seemingly modest total of 142, Australia were 50 for 1 after the first six overs but lost three wickets and added just 50 runs in the following nine.
Mitchell Santner and Ish Bodhi frustrated Australia's batmen with canny spin, Santner producing a ripping ball that foxed Smith into coming down the wicket only to see it turn sharply past his bat and Luke Ronchi whip off the bails.
But what will concern Australia is that most of their wickets came from players holing out while trying to clear the fence, their batsmen unable to adjust their approach when scoring became difficult. With their next match, against Bangladesh, just a few days away, they have little time to regroup.
"I think its just about going out there and making sure we learn from our mistakes in this game," Smith said. "I think the way we play, we can win and lose games in the 7-15 overs.
"I think we saw that in the games we played against South Africa. We batted really well in those periods and we were able to win games. So we need to adopt the same things here."
Australia's campaign may be off to a poor start, but Smith maintains his side is still confident of winning Australia's first World T20 trophy.
"I think everyone in this team has had success in this format. I guess you have to try and think back to those moments and think what you did well.
"We are in different conditions to (what) a lot of us have played. A lot of us have played in the IPL but you don't quite often see wickets that are spinning like this one. It's about finding ways to be successful and each individual to have a plan and stick to it as much as possible to make sure we get through those 7-15 overs because, if we do that, I'm confident we can win a lot of games."
Australia's bowlers generally bowled tightly and took regular wickets, although Ashton Agar's solitary over was one he will soon want to forget; it included three full tosses that were belted over the fence by Martin Guptill and he was immediately pulled from the attack. While the 18 runs conceded proved costly, Smith said that was not the deciding factor.
"Those things happen in the game," he said. "He didn't execute as well as he would have liked. That's the game of cricket, you can't put it down to that."
Adam Zampa fared better, conceding just three runs from his only over, but that was the only time his legspin was used, as Glenn Maxwell was preferred to the two front-line spinners on a low and slow track.
"I just thought today was the day that our quicker bowlers were going to do the job bowling the ball into the wicket and I think it worked. Restricting them to 142 was a very good effort. So I was very pleased with the way the guys did their job today.
"I think I probably would have used them (spinners) a little more if the batters that were in were the right ones. So I was happy with the way the guys did their job today."
Melinda Farrell is a presenter with ESPNcricinfo