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Why Australia can be considered World Cup favourites

SHARJAH, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - MARCH 22: Aaron Finch of Australia celebrates after reaching his century during the first One Day International match between Pakistan and Australia at Sharjah on March 22, 2019 in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Francois Nel/Getty Images)

Steve Smith and David Warner have now served their 12 month bans for ball-tampering after their sanction came to an end on 28 March.

The pair were eligible to be integrated back into the Australian line-up for the fourth and fifth One Day Internationals in the ongoing series against Pakistan, but will be playing in the Indian Premier League instead.

Both Smith and Warner did meet up with the squad before the ODI series, however, in order to ingratiate themselves back into the fold and repair any fractured relationships with the rest of their in-form peers.

While the return of two of the most talented batsmen in world cricket has been long-awaited, their absence over the past year has resulted in somewhat of a barren stretch for Australian cricket.

English supporters have fond memories of an emphatic 5-0 whitewash last June, which epitomised Australia’s woes and set a perceived precedent for life without their skipper and vice-captain.

Yet their return coincides with a reversal of fortunes for a squad that has won six straight ODIs, including a stunning 3-2 comeback win in India, to leave their selectors with a plethora of selection headaches heading into the World Cup.

Usman Khawaja has filled Warner’s boots at the top of the order with aplomb, passing 50 on four occasions in the five-match series in India.

His opening partner – skipper Aaron Finch – has more recently enjoyed a wonderful start to the current series with Pakistan, scoring 116, 153 and 90 in consecutive innings to lead his side to three comfortable victories.

Such has been the firepower from the two openers this series that Australia’s middle-order have had limited opportunities to illustrate their firepower, but 91 from Shaun Marsh in the first game of the series, and a quick-fire 71 from Glenn Maxwell last time out has served as a reminder of their batting depth.

As Smith and Warner re-enter the fold, Australia possess the talent to rival any batting line-up at the World Cup.

Australia are defending champions after winning their fifth World Cup in 2015

On the bowling front, Pat Cummins – rested for the opening two games in Sharjah – has been one of Australia’s brightest sparks over the past year.

The quick took 3-9 from his opening four overs in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday to reduce Pakistan to 16-3 and snuff out their chances of chasing a Finch and Maxwell-inspired 266 on a testing pitch.

Fellow seamer Jhye Richardson has also shown good form up top for the Australian bowling unit this series, notably taking a stifling 2-16 in the second ODI from his opening five overs.

The stingy bowling attack have successfully kept their opposition under 300 for seven of their last eight ODI’s – a particularly impressive feat given five of those games faced India’s second ranked ODI batting line-up.

In an era where bat has dominated ball more than ever in white ball cricket, the wealth of bowling options in the Australian locker room nicely complements their all-star batting cohort.

With everything looking up for Australia’s World Cup chances, it is fair to consider them as one of the favourites for a sixth title in England this summer.

Their comeback in India and series domination against Pakistan suggests there is no side in better one-day form.

As much as English cricket fans will hate to admit it, their own side has shown the tendency to collapse again in the West Indies amid their usual flashes of brilliance.

One feels that the nature of Smith and Warner’s re-introduction to a well-settled and in-form side will be key to Australia’s World Cup success.

There is, of course, no question over their talent, but selectors will be conscious of dropping players who have produced excellent form for their country in recent months to make way for the returning heavyweights.

Photograph // Flickr – Marko Kosonen

Robert Clayden
Rob, 24, is a history graduate from the University of Warwick. Following his studies, he spent two years working in the education sector as a director at a tutoring firm, and still continues to work with young people in a sports coaching capacity for squash and cricket. Before undertaking his Sports Journalism Master’s at St Mary’s University, Rob spent the summer of 2018 working for digital golf magazine Golf Today. A competitive sportsman, Rob’s personal strengths and interests lie in racket sports, cricket, golf and American sports, and he joins the plethora of Surrey-based Manchester Utd fans that grace the South-East. Recent visits to Boston and San Francisco have affirmed his love for the sports culture in the US, with a more permanent move out there a long-term aspiration. You will likely find him tweeting propaganda for squash’s inclusion as an Olympic sport at anyone who will listen.
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