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Key to Australia's T20I success: Spin twins, and return of David Warner, Steven Smith

The No.1-ranked side have played some of their most consistent cricket in the format since 2019

Andrew McGlashan
Andrew McGlashan
During cricket's Covid-19 hiatus, Australia became the No.1-ranked T20I team for the first time. You can read as much or as little into the rankings as you wish, and in T20s they are especially fluid, but it came after a 12-month period - from February 2019 to February 2020 - where they played some of their most consistent cricket in the format.
The run, which currently stands at nine wins from 11 matches (and only denied 10 victories due to rain in Sydney), began with a 2-0 victory over India and then during the 2019-2020 series saw them convincingly beat Sri Lanka and Pakistan at home plus South Africa away. A series in New Zealand at the end of March fell victim to Covid-19 and this week marks the resumption against England.
It had all been building nicely towards them being one of the favourites for the home T20 World Cup in October, but that tournament will now be played in 2022 in India next year. However, Australia believe they are forming a side that can adapt to all conditions - so what have been the key areas in their success?
Warner's run glut, Smith's savvy
Australia's run started before David Warner had completed his one-year ban, but his return to the top order has had a dynamic effect. In the two matches against India, Marcus Stoinis and D'Arcy Short had opened the batting. The former failed twice and while Short made two handy scores, reuniting Warner and Aaron Finch at the top has been an overwhelming success.
Warner has led the way, scoring 415 runs at 138.33 and a strike rate of 142.12 including 239 runs across five innings between dismissals. The other returnee, Steven Smith, actually scored his runs at a better clip than Warner - 147.92 - with his 51-ball 80 against Pakistan in Canberra a very classy innings. When slipped down to No. 5 in the deciding match against South Africa he clubbed 30 off 15 balls. Overall, Australia are the second-fastest scorers behind England among the top-10 ranked T20I teams.
Picking the best quicks
When Mitchell Starc played against India at the SCG in November 2018 and Pat Cummins faced the same side in Visakhapatnam in February 2019 they were the first T20Is for both fast bowlers for two years. Due to the international schedule, Australia had seen the T20 format as the chance to rest their big two quicks. It meant that often the pace attack looked a little second-string.
However, with the (now delayed) T20 World Cup in view the format took on a much greater standing and, not surprisingly, the impact has been seen. Starc played eight of the nine matches in the 2019-2020 season, taking 12 wickets, and Cummins has appeared in 10 of the last 11 games with 13 wickets. Don't underestimate the role of Kane Richardson, either, who has been given the chance to string together a run of matches. Starc, Cummins and Richardson have played seven of the 11 matches together.
Spin twins
The other successful element of the bowling attack has been the pairing of Adam Zampa and Ashton Agar, with the latter tasked to bring balance to the side and allow Australia to play five frontline bowlers when he was recalled at the start of the 2019-2020 season. Between them Zampa and Agar have taken 25 wickets at 15.36 conceding 6.09 per over across the last nine T20Is, appearing together in eight of those matches. Zampa just missed the match in Perth against Pakistan when an extra quick was selected while Agar wasn't part of the side for the India tour in 2019. Agar's haul of 15 wickets includes 5 for 24 against South Africa in which he claimed a hat-trick.
The overall strength of their attack has made Australia comfortably the most economical side since January 2019.
And Maxwell's back
Glenn Maxwell stepped away from the game early last season to manage his mental health. Before the break he had a major impact on the start of Australia's T20 upswing with 231 runs in three innings which included a spectacular series-winning 113 in Bengaluru and a destructive 62 off 28 balls against Sri Lanka in Adelaide. An overall strike rate of 160 is the best for any batsman with at least 1000 T20I runs.
His return will bring another dimension to the middle order which, when needed, has been a little uncertain: the one defeat in the last 11 came when a combination of Alex Carey, Mitchell Marsh and Matthew Wade misfired against South Africa in Port Elizabeth, leaving Warner stranded. Wade, who made 18, 1 and 10 on the South Africa tour, would appear the most likely to make way in a first-choice side.
With inputs from Bharath Seervi

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo