Batting coach Michael di Venuto has called on Australia's middle order batters to do better at the Cricket World Cup, with the Aussies suffering from multiple mid-innings stumbles that Ricky Ponting has labelled 'deplorable'. The Aussies became the first team to post three-consecutive totals in excess of 350 when they made 388 against New Zealand.
It followed scores of 9-367 against Pakistan and 8-399 against the Netherlands - totals that all led to Australian victories. But in all three matches, the Aussies suffered a mini-collapse in the middle order after a red-hot start.
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Against New Zealand, openers David Warner and Travis Head produced an explosive start, taking Australia's score to 0-118 off just 10 overs (the best powerplay of the tournament so far). They were then 1-200 off 23 overs, but a total in excess of 400 went begging thanks to a middle order wobble.
Mitch Marsh (36 from 51 balls), Steve Smith (18 off 17) and Marnus Labuschagne (18 from 26) all failed to maintain the scoring rate as the Aussies only managed less than five per over throughout the final 25 overs. In the end their score of 388 proved just enough, with the Kiwis falling agonisingly short in their run chase.
It left the Aussies feeling like they'd missed an opportunity to go beyond 400. Speaking on the ICC broadcast, Ponting said: “There’ll be relief from the Australians, no doubt about it. If it had snuck away from them...their batting through the middle of their innings was deplorable."
With Smith and Labuschagne both in the middle order, there have been question marks about how the traditionally slower batters can help Australia maintain their scoring rates. Both batters are more prolific in red-ball cricket, and have found themselves under scrutiny for their go-slow approach in the past.
"We can be better certainly through that middle period," Di Venuto said on Monday. "There was some good bowling from their spinners.
"There's areas we can certainly improve – batting out our overs would have been nice. One run off the last two overs looked like it was going to cost us. To lose 4-1 wasn't ideal to finish your innings."
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Smith has 161 runs so far at the tournament at an average of 26.83, while Labuschagne has 201 runs at 33.50. "The openers put on a fantastic partnership (against NZ), so when that happens, it's more situation than what number is next to your name," Di Venuto said.
"It's about adapting to the situation you go in at. So if we lost an early wicket, Mitch goes in and plays like an opener. If we lose two early ones, Smudge (Smith) is in. On this occasion, a terrific opening stand, the game's a little deeper so you've just to adjust out in the middle and adapt."
After starting the World Cup with consecutive defeats, Pat Cummins' side have now won four games in a row and will likely make the knockout stage even if they lose one more. They will be favourites in their three remaining group games against a deflated and embarrassed England side, as well as Afghanistan and Bangladesh.
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