'No secret teams target us with spin' - Finch
Australia's approach to spin will have to turn around if want to improve their chances of success at the World T20, according to Aaron Finch. The opening batsman, who top-scored with 40 in their losing cause against South Africa in Durban, identified spin as the main threat to their line-up after Imran Tahir took 3 for 21 against them in the opening match.
"It's no secret that teams are targeting us with spin and rightfully so. We haven't played it all that well over the last little while in the shortest format," Finch said. "India took a lot of wickets with spin and today Imran was all over us. It's something we are going to have look to change our plans. The guys are quality players of spin. It's just about changing our mindsets slightly if we do have a few dot balls."
Australia had been going well, at 71 for 2 at the start of the eighth over, but Tahir struck with his first ball. Finch holed out to a full toss and was disappointed in both his state of mind and his shot selection to a spinner that demanded more respect. "There were some times when our ego took over," Finch said. "When you are playing against a quality spinner on a wicket that suits him, you have to be a little smarter, myself included. If I hit that full toss for six, it could have been a different scenario."
South Africa actually presented Australia with two spin challenges in their innings, the first of which they passed. JP Duminy was tasked with bowling in the Powerplay and Finch was merciless. He took 24 runs off Duminy's only over and admitted that was part of a plan. "You look to target guys," Finch said. "It's such a hard gig for an offspinner and with guys who don't spin the ball both ways, it's probably even more challenging. We were only one down at the time and it felt right to try and take it on a bit."
But Finch admitted that his efforts were not enough. "I didn't go on and get a matchwinning score like David Miller who got 50 not out and won the game," he said.
Tahir went on to remove Peter Nevill and John Hastings, after South Africa's other bowlers dismantled the Australia middle order. Between the sixth and 16th over, South Africa took 6 for 45 and in so doing, ensured Australia could not get close to the score of around 200 they seemed headed for after a quick start. "That's where they totally outplayed us in the game," Finch said.
Australia could plug the gap by bringing in someone with more experience at the top, like Shane Watson. Selector Mark Waugh said Australia would aim to give every player in their squad two matches during this series as they try to discover their best XI ahead of the World T20 and Watson, who left the Pakistan Super League with an abdominal injury last month, is expected to play on Sunday.
"He would have played today except he had a stomach strain so we just wanted to make sure that he was fully fit. He'll play in the last two games," Waugh said while commentating. "We're probably going to give everybody two games out of three matches so we can have a look at them and give them some game time in the middle.
"We've played very little T20 cricket so everyone will get a game. Watson's bowling has been very good the last three or four months. In the Big Bash he bowled well and then for Australia in the T20s against India - he was actually our best bowler. He presents the seam beautifully and he's a bit deceptive when he hits the deck hard."
Finch described Watson as the "ultimate T20 player" but his inclusion may mean Finch's own place is in doubt. "Shane brings a lot of experience, a lot of power in batting, bowling, fielding," Finch said. "He has made hundreds, he has taken wickets, he is a brilliant player. Guys will probably get shuffled around a little and everyone is open to that. My job as an opener is to go out there and try and get as off to a flier and try and set up the game and push through and get a bigger score than 40. If I am are under pressure [for my spot], it just adds to a bit of fun."
At least in the other discipline, Australia could be less critical. They broke through South Africa's top order to show their potential to be dangerous with the ball. "Our last three games against India, we struggled to get wickets at all, let alone at the top of the innings and to be able to knock over a couple early was a real positive," Finch said. "It allowed us to get into that middle order." Now they just need to find someone who can mow through that as well.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent