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T20 World Cup 2022

Top-order rigidity, fading quicks and tactical errors: Five things that went wrong in Australia’s T20 World Cup title defence

Aaron Finch
Abhishek Mukherjee by Abhishek Mukherjee
@ovshake42 4 minute read

In 2022, Australia became the first defending champions to host the men’s T20 World Cup. Pre-tournament expectations were high, but keeping true to the topsy-turvy traditions of the tournament, they bowed out before the semi-final.

Playing in familiar conditions in front of home crowds is an obvious advantage. Being defending champions, perhaps not as much, but given that the two editions of the men’s T20 World Cup were held in consecutive years, it was an indicator of form. Australia were among the pre-tournament favourites.

As things turned out, Australia fell prey to two independent ‘curses’. Sri Lanka (2012) and India (2014) are the only instances of the hosts making it to the top four of a T20 World Cup, while Pakistan (2010) and the West Indies (2014) are the only defending champions to have done the same.


These patterns – little more than illogical trivia – continue to hold. But what really went wrong for Australia this time?

A curious rigidity

The Australian squad was virtually the same as the one that had lifted the World Cup a year ago. They retained captain Aaron Finch, whose ordinary form forced him into ODI retirement. In 2021, David Warner (289 runs at 147) and Mitchell Marsh (185 at 147) had more than made up for Finch’s ordinary showing (135 at 116).

Finch batted even slower this time (107 runs at 110). Worse, he faced 32 balls per innings while batting at that pace – compared to last year’s 19. Warner had a torrid run, while Marsh did somewhat better (he struck at 131), but like many out-of-form top-order batters, they consumed a lot of balls without scoring quickly. As a result, Glenn Maxwell and Marcus Stoinis, both of whom struck at over 160, faced a mere 151 balls between them.

Until Finch pulled a hamstring, Australia did not change their top three. But then, their reserves included Steve Smith, who retained his place despite scoring 69 runs (at 97) in the 2021 edition and another 145 (at 120) since then.

The errors against New Zealand

Finn Allen came into the tournament with the reputation of a fearsome hitter (with a 2,000-run cut-off, he still has the best strike rate in all Twenty20 cricket). However, there was a catch. In 2022, Allen struck at 156 against pace ahead of the World Cup, and a very human 139 against spin. Yet, despite Allen’s early attack, the Australians used Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins, and Stoinis in the first four overs against him. Australia never recovered from Allen’s 16-ball 42 in the match – or in the tournament.

Yet, they could have. At 82-6 in 12.2 overs, the match was as good as gone. No full member side has added 119 for the last four wickets in Twenty20 cricket, let alone at 15.52 an over. With Maxwell at the crease, Australia could have opted to bat deep and limit the damage. Instead, Maxwell was bowled while attempting a reverse-sweep, and Australia were bowled out for 111 in 17.1 overs. Had they reached 160, they would have been above England in the NRR after the group stage. At 150, or even 140, they would probably have had a chance.

Less than four hours into the tournament, Australia were virtually doomed, and their hopes rested on England losing two games, or getting smashed in one. Neither happened.

The crawl against Sri Lanka

Having conceded a net run rate of -4.45 against New Zealand, one would have expected to Australia spend the rest of their World Cup trying to catch up. Yet, after they restricted Sri Lanka to 157-6, Australia did not hit a single boundary until the 44th ball of the chase. Between them, the top three managed 59 runs in 69 balls before big hitting from Maxwell and Stoinis helped Australia win with 21 balls to spare.

It was an impressive margin by ordinary standards, but not when one tries to make up a deficit of 89 runs. They left too much to make up in the matches against Ireland and Afghanistan. The margins (42 runs and four runs) did not turn out to be enough.

… and they continued

After two matches – and a washout against England – Australia’s net run rate stood at -1.555. With +4.450, New Zealand were clear of everyone, but even England’s +0.450 was some distance away. Australia needed quick runs against Ireland: their top three responded with 94 in 73 balls. As a result, Tim David and Matthew Wade – two ferocious end-of-innings hitters – faced 13 balls.

Lorcan Tucker’s unbeaten 71 might (or not) have taken them by surprise, especially after Ireland were 25-5. But before that, just like the Sri Lanka match, Australia had left the onslaught for too late.

Perhaps they could have shuffled the batting order. Perhaps they will do it now, for the 2024 T20 World Cup.

The pace attack

Since the 2015 IPL, Starc has played 39 Twenty20 matches – all of them internationals. One may argue that every individual prepares in a different way, but things have clearly not worked out for Starc, especially since 2020. He was part of the Australian unit that won the 2021 edition, but barring Stoinis’ three overs, Starc’s 9.18 was the worst economy rate for Finch’s side.

Cummins (7.37) did better, though he struck at 29 balls a wicket (with a five-over cut-off, only Maxwell did worse). He did not pick up wickets, but he was at least economical. But in 2022, that economy rises to 8.36. In death overs alone, he has gone at 10.83. Both numbers are his career worst for a calendar year.

If there is ever a World Cup among two-member pace-attacks in Test cricket, Starc and Cummins may win it on Australian soil. But this is a different format, where their abilities were of little use. With Australia taking field with four specialist bowlers, Hazlewood and Adam Zampa were left with too much to do. It came to a point when Starc made way for Kane Richardson against Afghanistan. It could well have been Cummins.

Bet365 will be Live Streaming all of the T20 World Cup matches direct to your iPhone, iPad or Android device, as well as desktop. This means that every T20 World Cup fixture will be available to bet365 customers wherever they are in the world.

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