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News Analysis

Aussies at the IPL: what has stood out in early matches?

The IPL has been underway for a week and a half with Australian players central to some of the major action

Andrew McGlashan
Andrew McGlashan

Cummins leaves himself late

Pat Cummins had never captained a T20 before this IPL. In the opening two matches he came out of an avalanche of runs very well with figures of 1 for 32 against Kolkata Knight Riders and 2 for 35 in an astonishing 523-run contest against Mumbai Indians. After the latter, Australia chair of selectors George Bailey joked Cummins may have used his captain's prerogative and given himself some "soft overs."
It was interesting, therefore, to see Cummins hold himself back until the sixth bowler against Gujarat Titans when SRH only had 163 to defend. Only once before in all his professional matches had Cummins been used so far down the list, back in 2014 in a T20I against South Africa. When he came on he was effective, his first two overs costing 13, but the gamble of leaving himself two of the last four didn't pay off when Mayank Markande was taken for 26 in the 16th to effectively decide the game. Cummins returned to take a wicket but didn't have enough to work with.

Expensive start for expensive Starc

Given the record-breaking price tag plenty of eyes were going to be on Mitchell Starc. And it's not been a pretty start to his much-awaited IPL return. In two matches his figures read: 8-0-100-0. The good news for KKR is that they have won both matches.
After three overs in the opening game against SRH things weren't looking too bad for Starc with 3-0-27-0. Then he got taken for 26 by Henrich Klaasen and Shahbaz Ahmed but Harshit Rana became the final-over hero. They were the second-most expensive figures of Starc's T20 career. Against Royal Challengers Bengaluru he began with a solid opening over that cost seven. He then was taken for 17, largely from the bat of Virat Kohli. He did well to only concede seven off the 16th over when he managed three dot balls against a well-set Kohli, but in the last over he took two sixes off Starc. Still, KKR cantered home with 19 balls to spare.
Speaking to Star Sports Steven Smith, who is working as a commentator early in the tournament, said Starc needed to get his inswinger going. "I feel like he's got to swing it back down the line. He is a left-hand fast bowler who can bowl at 145+ kph. There's nothing like a ball swinging back into a right-handed batsman. It's one of the hardest balls to face. So I'd like to see that first and use that one as a variation to trying to nick off from them."

Travis' Head start

Travis Head is lined up to open for Australia at the T20 World Cup but he was overlooked for SRH's opening game against KKR. That changed for the second fixture, against Mumbai Indians, and he wasted no time making an impact as he flayed 62 off 24 balls to set SRH on their way to a mind-blowing 277 for 3. He was then subbed out for impact player Umran Malik, leading Australia's chair of selectors to joke it had been the "perfect game" for him.
It will be interesting to watch Head throughout this tournament - by the end of the New Zealand tour he was one of the players who looked in need of a break. Australia's management has acknowledged the emergence of Head as a key three-format player has brought workload challenges after a summer where he averaged 22.41 in Tests.

Moving Marsh

Plans and tactics can change quickly. Mitchell Marsh, who is all-but locked in to be Australia's captain at the T20 World Cup, walked out to open for Delhi Capitals alongside David Warner in the first two matches. He made 20 off 12 and 23 off 12, playing in the manner everyone has become accustomed to, though converting one of those starts may have helped Capitals avoid being 0-2.
In game three against Chennai Super Kings there was a change with Marsh initially listed at No. 3. But when Warner and Prithvi Shaw had added 93, Rishabh Pant came in at first drop, potentially to maintain a left-right combination. Marsh appeared at No. 4 and made 18 off 12 before being cleaned up by a terrific yorker from Matheesha Pathirana. The tactics worked as Capitals earned their first win.
In the opening game against Punjab Kings, Marsh had been required to bowl his four overs after Ishant Sharma picked up an ankle injury. His latter two proved pivotal in deciding the contest as they went for 35 against the English duo of Sam Curran and Liam Livingstone.

Johnson's early impact

Given the huge sums of money splurged on them, much attention has been on Starc and Cummins. But Spencer Johnson was another of the Australian quicks to go for big money at the auction and his story is perhaps the most remarkable given his rapid rise in little more than a year. He only bowled two overs in his first outing for Titans but stood up when it mattered. Having gone for 17 off his first over, he was then brought back for the 19th with 27 needed off 12 balls. His first ball was lofted into the stands by Tilak Varma (meaning he had 1.1-0-23-0) but the next delivery found deep square leg. Only two runs came off the next three balls before he removed Gerald Coetzee with a bouncer. It left Umesh Yadav 19 to defend off the last which proved just enough.

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo