Matches (21)
PAK v WI [W] (1)
IPL (2)
County DIV1 (5)
County DIV2 (4)
WT20 WC QLF (Warm-up) (5)
RHF Trophy (4)
News Analysis

Australia saved their tournament, now they need to define it

They bounced back impressively from the England drubbing, helped by reverting to their initial balance of team

Andrew McGlashan
Andrew McGlashan
A week ago, Australia's T20 World Cup campaign could have come off the rails. Hammered by England, progression was taken out of their hands even with wins in the final two group matches. However, by the time they walked off against West Indies - via a guard of honour for Dwayne Bravo and Chris Gayle - it would have taken a massive reversal for them not to make it.
The England game was a strange one. Not so much from the result itself - England were favourites going in and could have won under a variety of scenarios - but the thinking leading into it which led to Australia changing the balance of the side, from four specialist bowlers, that had won the opening two matches against South Africa and Sri Lanka.
Mitchell Marsh was left out in favour of Ashton Agar, the argument being based around the good match-up of left-arm spin to England's top order, but even if there were some numbers to back it up, it felt like a change for the sake of change. Almost inevitably having left out a batter, Australia were put in on a pitch that offered movement and were 21 for 4. Game over.
The good thing for Australia was after that match they had a decent break of four days. It helped take the sting out of the result. The response felt less reactionary. The players got away from the game for a couple of days - a factor not to be underestimated while there is still a level of biosecurity restriction in place - before preparing to take on Bangladesh.
They reverted to the seven-four balance of the side with Marsh returning. It's tough on Agar who has been excellent over the last two years, but the deeper batting order allows more freedom. Out of their control, but a helpful factor, was they came up against two teams who were eliminated from the competition. It showed in the performances of Bangladesh and West Indies, although the latter needed a strong response when Gayle and Evin Lewis threatened in the powerplay.
The four specialist bowlers are Australia's strength while the trade-off in playing the extra batter should be enough to compensate for a fifth bowler in a combination made up of Marsh, Glenn Maxwell and Marcus Stoinis. It didn't become a factor against Bangladesh (although Maxwell nabbed the handy wicket of Mushfiqur Rahim in his first over) but Marsh, bowling for the first time in the tournament, played a very important role against West Indies as he was able to scuttle through three overs for just 16 runs - a win against West Indies any day. It meant that while the three quicks went for 109 runs in their 12 overs - Mitchell Starc's figures being dented by his last two deliveries going for sixes - the value of Josh Hazlewood's four wickets were not lost.
And then there is Adam Zampa. He has been Australia's Player of the Tournament so far. Eleven wickets at 9.90 and an economy of 5.73, the joint-leading wicket-taker of the Supers 12s. He may have mopped up a weak middle and lower order against Bangladesh where he bagged a five-wicket haul, but against South Africa, Sri Lanka and West Indies he has expertly kept a lid on the scoring rate.
The way Australia then rattled off the run chase ticked a couple more boxes. David Warner played as well as he has since before the groin injury he suffered last season and Marsh continued his run-glut against West Indies to give an indication he hadn't been left uncertain by his demotion a few days earlier. The only issue is that the convincing nature of the batting in their last two matches has left the middle order without a hit since the struggles against England. Maxwell's last two innings read 0*(0). But you can't have it both ways. Australia had to produce two near-perfect games to make the semi-finals and they achieved that. A misstep and they were likely on a flight home after the group stage and facing a significant fallout.
Which brings us to the semi-final against Pakistan. A rematch of the famous game in St Lucia 11 years ago when Mike Hussey did the almost-impossible to secure victory. What is a pass mark for Australia in this tournament? Reaching the knockouts was a bare minimum, albeit they could have been in South Africa's shoes and going out with four wins, although that benchmark does highlight Australia's overall lean record in this event. They haven't made the final since that Hussey-inspired day.
It was difficult to judge them leading into the tournament because of the host of absent players, but the dramatic week in Adelaide quarantine where Justin Langer's position got to the brink left the feeling a lot was on the line in the UAE. A return to that fraught atmosphere has now probably been avoided, but questions around Australia's T20 cricket will likely persist if this is as far as they go. They saved their tournament in a week. Now the challenge is to make it their best ever.

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo