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Australia's strength has always been to hit the opposition hard. They are now showing they can replicate that success in Twenty20
May 7, 2010
There's a large stand at the Kensington Oval which carries the name of the three Ws. Australia showed they have two pretty handy Ws themselves as Shane Watson and David Warner produced a brutal display of hitting to lay the platform for a crushing victory against India. There isn't anything subtle about Australia's style of Twenty20 cricket, but there is a growing confidence and strut about them.
When the openers were separated in the 11th over, they'd added 104 and that included a maiden - the first over of the match - by Harbhajan Singh. Batsmen have learnt it is often worth having an early look at the bowling even in the Powerplay, although India's top order didn't follow suit. Overs three to 14 of Australia's innings went for 126 runs - in the other nine India didn't do a bad job at restricting the scoring but it was too late.
There are many ways to skin a cat and there are many ways to play a Twenty20 innings. This tournament has already shown a full range. There has been the elegance of Mahela Jaywardene's hundred against Zimbabwe, the invention of Eoin Morgan against West Indies and the measured approach of Kevin Pietersen against Pakistan.
There have been innings of brief brutality by Albie Morkel yesterday and Darren Sammy against Ireland, but for a sustained, fierce onslaught it is difficult to look past Watson, firstly against Pakistan and now on this occasion where he was joined by his opening partner. The boundaries here are not the biggest, but they were cleared with ease and twice the ball flew over the stands.
"I believe we have the best two openers in Twenty20 cricket in the world at the moment," Michael Clarke said. "I think they bat fantastically together, a left and right-hand combination, both are very aggressive but if they need to take their time they don't seem distressed too much. I think they are a wonderful combination and will continue to play a huge part in this tournament - two wonderful players and I am blessed to have them on my team."
But it's one thing to want to hit the ball out of the ground - and that's the aim of most batsmen in Twenty20 - and another having the execution to pull it off. The contrast with India's top-order effort was stark as they floundered against a sustained assault from Australia's barrage of quick bowlers. Both Gautam Gambhir and Suresh Raina flinched against the short ball and a realistic chance in the chase had gone. India have improved considerably in recent years away from home, but pace and bounce can still be their undoing.
Australia's stand-and-deliver approach is highlighted by almost 50 percent of their runs (90) coming in sixes - there were 16 in the innings and just six fours - and knowing the hyper-critical assessments they make of their performances, a final five-over tally of 39 will be an area they will assess, particularly after Mohammad Aamer's final over in St Lucia. India's bowlers found a more consistent length late in the innings - with Ashish Nehra's last over especially impressive - but it couldn't pull back the lost ground.
The harshest treatment was reserved for Ravindra Jadeja who went for 38 in his two overs, including six consecutive sixes split between two overs. MS Dhoni probably regretted bringing him on early, but why he brought him back with the openers in full flow was a mystery. The lack of pace is meant to make spinners harder to hit, but it didn't make an ounce of difference to Watson and Warner.
Australia's Twenty20 plan is based around force from start to finish. There is an element of shock and awe about the way they are going about the game. The fancy tactics of other teams - opening with spinners, taking the pace off the ball and deft placement - are replaced by all-out aggression with bat and ball. Australia's strength has always been to hit the opposition hard whichever format they are playing, but it has taken them a while to replicate success in Twenty20. They have options that make them adaptable - the spin of Clarke, David Hussey and Steven Smith - but route one for them is attack.
Even without Brett Lee they have the most intimidating pace line-up in the tournament and arguably the quickest attack in any form of the game. Dirk Nannes, who only plays this format for Australia, regularly pushes the speed gun past 150kph. Along with Warner and David Hussey he is making a strong case for the Twenty20-only players to be properly recognised by Cricket Australia who haven't issued them contracts.
As Australia's previous match against Bangladesh showed - they were 65 for 6 at one stage - there will still be times when they come unstuck, but now there is a feeling that, like they have in Tests and one-dayers, they will find a way to win. Even in the most fickle of formats, they are going to take some stopping.
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