The most glaring problem with Australia T20 side was exposed during Saturday’s calamitous loss to England in Southampton.
Despite needing 40 from 39 balls with nine wickets in hand, the Australians spectacularly collapsed during their run chase, eventually losing the match by two runs.
Aaron Finch and David Warner put on 98 for the opening partnership to set up what should have been a cruisy run chase. But the middle order crumbled, at one stage losing four wickets for nine runs.
Batting at No. 5, Marcus Stoinis could only muster one boundary from his 18 deliveries at the death. Worryingly, the Western Australian is still yet to manage a 50+ score during an Australian victory in any format.
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Stoinis’ inability to get Australia over the line at the Rose Bowl should hardly come as a surprise — the 31-year-old has primarily opened the batting for the Melbourne Stars over the past two seasons.
He was named Player of the Big Bash League last summer after a record-breaking tournament, yet has been forced to bat in unfamiliar conditions in the middle order.
Stoinis is accustomed to setting the tempo in the T20 innings and has little experience as a finisher in run chases.
Unfortunately for the all-rounder, the opening two spots in the Australian team are incontestably occupied by veterans Finch and Warner.
In actuality, Australia boasts a seemingly endless supply of powerhouse opening batsmen. There are six in the current T20 squad — Alex Carey, Josh Philippe, Matthew Wade, Warner, Finch and Stoinis.
Meanwhile, several other worthy candidates are waiting at home, including but not limited to D’Arcy Short, Chris Lynn and Usman Khawaja.
With the exemption of Glenn Maxwell — who was dismissed for one on Saturday — Australia lacks world-class T20 finishers, and slotting Stoinis and Carey into the middle order does not resolve the issue.
As pointed out by ESPNcricinfo reporter Andrew McGlashan on Twitter, none of Australia’s most reliable middle order batsmen are currently in England, with one exception.
Former Hobart Hurricanes skipper George Bailey is currently with the Australian squad, but ironically, not as a player — as a selector.
HIGHEST STRIKE RATE OF AUSTRALIAN MIDDLE ORDER BATSMAN IN BBL
George Bailey (Hobart Hurricanes) — 150.69
Alex Ross (Sydney Thunder) — 139.71
Matthew Short (Adelaide Strikers) — 137.64
Jonathan Wells (Adelaide Strikers) — 130.46
Daniel Christian (Melbourne Renegades) — 125.00
* Minimum 10 innings since 2018, batting positions 5-7 only
None of the other four proven T20 finishers listed above were chosen for the tour to England, and Australia’s middle order will continue to falter under pressure unless the selectors reward BBL form.
Otherwise, Australia risks losing their coveted No. 1 spot on the ICC T20 rankings.
The second T20 match against England commences on Sunday evening AEST at 11pm.