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Australia ace their balancing act as David Warner, Aaron Finch cut loose

Fifth-bowler gamble gives openers confidence to go for their shots from outset

Matt Roller
Matt Roller
Aaron Finch and David Warner put on a fifty opening stand, Australia vs Sri Lanka, 2021 Men's T20 World Cup, Dubai, October 28, 2021

David Warner and Aaron Finch took advantage of Australia's batting depth to attack Sri Lanka  •  AFP via Getty Images

Australia made a significant change to their strategy on the eve of the T20 World Cup, confirming their intentions to move away from picking five specialist bowlers and instead back their allrounders to cover off four overs between them.
The move appeared to work well in their opening game of the tournament against South Africa: Glenn Maxwell took 1 for 24 in his four overs before Matthew Wade finished things off with an unbeaten cameo of 15 off 10 balls from No. 7. Justin Langer, their head coach, said it had been "a very, very difficult selection" and hinted the balance could change later in the competition, but they remained unchanged against Sri Lanka.
In their second game, by contrast, their batting-heavy strategy came under pressure. Sri Lanka's batters were ruthless: Charith Asalanka demonstrated their desire to take down the 'fifth' bowler by slog-sweeping Maxwell's first ball for six, and all told, Maxwell and Marcus Stoinis leaked 51 runs between them in four wicketless overs.
The flipside was that the cushion of an extra batter allowed Australia's top order to play more aggressively, as evidenced by Aaron Finch and David Warner taking 63 runs off the six Powerplay overs; while Mitchell Marsh, Stoinis and Wade were not required with the bat, the top order could go harder as a consequence of their presence in the middle order.
"It does [allow us to go harder]," Warner said in his post-match press conference. "It's dictated by the wickets we're playing on as well. You're going to have to have those runners in the middle, especially when you come up against an attack with three spinners like we did today. You've got to have that balance so you can go hard at the top and then mix it around in the middle. We've got some firepower."
Warner pointed to Maxwell's success in Australia's opening game as evidence that their batting-heavy strategy could work. He also hinted that the pitch for their next fixture on Saturday night against England could have "more bounce and carry", though it remains to be seen if that will lead to a shift in their balance.
"If you look at Maxi last game, he obviously did a good job," Warner said. "These are the match-ups that happen. This happens in a game of Twenty20. Either way, you're going to have to pick one of them.
"For us to have that all-round option as well with Mitch Marsh, Maxi and Stoin - we know they're not specialist bowlers, but they do a job and they do a great one. These wickets at the moment - I think the other one we're playing on looks like it's going to have a bit more bounce and carry and come on nice. This wicket was a tad slow.
"It's about identifying with Finchy, when he's out there, which bowlers you want to go with. They [Maxwell and Stoinis] did go for a little bit tonight together, but we're not too worried at all."

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98