It wasn’t precisely a World Cup win, however Australia downed champions England on Thursday night time in a cushty first ODI win.
Australia received at Adelaide Oval by six wickets, with David Warner, Travis Head and Steve Smith main the way in which, because the hosts started to place a disappointing World Cup behind them.
These are the Speaking Factors to come back out of the large win.
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‘FOR F***’S SAKE’: Aussie star’s heated moment with umpire caught on stump mic
After dispatching consecutive balls to the boundary to move to 19, Steve Smith met David Warner at the end of the over with a smile from ear-to-ear.
“I’m back, baby,” Smith appeared to say.
Smith went on to score 80 off 77 — but it wasn’t the runs that mattered.
Arguably the biggest talking point of the night was Smith coming to terms with some big technique changes that have him looking in ominous form.
Steve Smith’s changed stance on display | 00:44
Gone was the massive shuffle well across his off stump. No longer was he getting his shoulders square. Smith even appeared to stop fiddling with his pads and gloves between balls.
Instead, Smith looked still, composed, and in brilliant touch.
Smith has looked this dangerous before, but rarely this textbook as he did away with a number of eccentricities in favour of a more conventional approach.
The way he stepped into cover drives on the night had both Smith, and Fox Cricket experts, excited about his return.
“This is textbook, behind his front shoulder,” Kerry O’Keeffe said when analysing one of Smith’s cover drives. “When you look at Steve Smith of yesteryear, he was very square-on at contact, mostly when he played those shots.
“Even the pre-shot movement has been modified. There’s no touching of the pads, the gloves and all of that. It’s a still head position at contact, the bat face controlled by the hands. This is vintage stuff.
“Just a couple of taps with the bat, lift, get on with it.”
CricViz stats showed that Smith was playing the ball under his eyes better, too. According to their stats model, he was playing the fast bowlers later than he has in ODI cricket in two years at 1.7 metres down the pitch.
Mark Waugh said there were “really good signs” from Smith, and endorsed the No.3 throwing away most of his pre-bowl movements.
“I like the way he’s going about his batting tonight,” Waugh said. “There’s little changes in style with his set-up, not as much pre-delivery movement.
“He’s a lot stiller at the crease which gives him a better position, I think, to access the ball on both sides of the wicket.
“He doesn’t seem to be as fidgety, I guess, as well. Just seems to be a different style of Steve Smith tonight — and it looks good.”
Arguably no one was as pleased as Smith himself.
Smith looked like someone who had just had a ‘eureka’ moment and couldn’t wait to face the next delivery.
During a drinks break, Smith was asked by the Fox Cricket commentary team what he had changed.
“Lots,” he replied with a smile, before joking: “I’m actually using the middle of the bat for once.”
He added: “I’m just standing a lot stiller, not moving as much, every now and again if I kind of want to, but keeping myself side-on.
“I think when I’m playing cover drives like those and getting my weight back through the ball, that’s when I know I’m hitting it well.
“It felt like I was moving a bit far (across), and getting a bit front on, and I was just limiting a few areas I could score and wasn’t feeling overly comfortable, but I feel good at the moment.”
SELECTORS’ POST-FINCH PLAN A WORKS OUT
Travis Head returned to the top of Australia’s ODI order and delivered upfront with a fearless 69 runs off 57 balls.
His 147-run partnership with David Warner made what could have been a tricky chase of 288 one which Australia could simply chip away at in the back-end of the innings.
Head looked to put the pressure back onto the bowlers early, and succeeded with 11 boundaries that took all pressure off the rest of the batting order.
Playing at his home ground the Adelaide Oval on a batter friendly wicket would have had the 28-year-old in his comfort zone — harder challenges will certainly come.
But Head will be a lock alongside Warner for some time yet, making an opening position at the ODI World Cup his to lose.
O’Keeffe said that Head looks like a natural fit alongside Warner, with the pair building on a strong record in ODI cricket.
From 11 partnerships, Head and Warner’s average stand together is 73.09 in ODIs.
“I think Head looks so comfortable batting with Warner,” he said. “They seem to have developed a relationship already.”
O’Keeffe said that Head has been able to succeed by laying out an attacking blueprint which he has committed to fully.
“This looks to be the way he’s approaching his cricket. He marmalises attacks in Australian first class and limited overs cricket, and here he is throwing the bat.”
Smith LOVES silky shot: ‘I’m back baby!’ | 00:31
‘BRILLIANT’ WARNER UP TO OLD TRICKS… BUT CENTURY DROUGHT GOES ON
After a stroke of bad luck in the first match against New Zealand, the left-hander appeared to lose his edge as the tournament wore on, ending with an average of 11.00, and strike rate of 107.31.
Far more was expected of Warner at the World Cup, but he looks eager to make up for lost time.
All the typical Warner trademarks were back at the Adelaide Oval, where the veteran dominated England’s bowlers and set-up the Australian victory with his 86 off 84 balls.
With two more ODIs and the Test summer on the horizon, it was essential for Warner to regain some form.
Hussey said in commentary that the old Warner looked like he was back in full flight.
“It’s been such an impressive innings from David Warner,” Hussey said on Fox Cricket.
“It’s had all the trademarks that we’re used to seeing. He’s been aggressive early, puts the pressure back on the bowlers, he’s run well between wickets.
“It gets Australia off to that positive start and puts the pressure on the opposition right from the word ‘go’.
“It’s been a brilliant innings, he hasn’t let a bowler settle apart from Ollie Stone at the start when he was a little bit wary.”
Nonetheless, his night ended on a sour note when another century went begging.
He won’t get a much better chance than he did in the first ODI, when he needed just 14 more runs and was under no pressure.
The dismissal means that Warner is edging closer to three years without a century in any format of international cricket.
He’s had nine scores worth more than 70 runs, but not century since January 2020.
Magic Malan smashes 134! | 04:12
‘FALL GUY’ HAZLEWOOD AND STARC IN WORLD CUP SHOWDOWN
Read between the lines of Australia’s selections for the first ODI and it becomes clear that Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood are heading towards a World Cup selection showdown.
The overwhelming consensus is that Australia will play two spinners in India given the conditions are expected to suit the tweakers.
As such, it was no surprise that Ashton Agar was picked alongside Adam Zampa on Thursday.
Australia will play about a dozen ODIs heading into next year’s World Cup, and Adam Gilchrist believes Agar will play the vast majority of them in preparation.
“With a limited amount of ODIs, I think Ashton Agar is going to play the lion’s share of those games regardless of conditions,” Gilchrist said in commentary. “Just to get him into the XI and know what an important role (he has), to believe he’s in the starting XI, and he will go into the World Cup full of confidence.”
Meanwhile, selectors have left themselves with less wiggle room by making Pat Cummins ODI captain.
It means that he’s also considered a lock, leaving just one more specialist bowling spot available to Starc and Hazlewood.
Hazlewood missed out in Adelaide, although it was Starc who missed out at the same ground in Australia’s last match of the T20 World Cup.
It’s early days, and it’s unclear who is ahead in the race, but O’Keeffe believes selectors have a major dilemma on their hands.
“It’s going to be a conundrum guys, isn’t it?” O’Keeffe said.
“Selectors have to make a decision. Is he a fading talent at his age or not? On the evidence of today, no.”
Starc took 1-45 in a strong spell against England, but O’Keeffe noted a poor record in India won’t go unnoticed at the selection table.
Granted it’s a small sample size, but Starc’s four ODIs in India have seen him take three wickets at 83.66.
Nonetheless, only Brett Lee, Glenn McGrath, Shane Warne and Mitchell Johnson have taken more ODI wickets for Australia than Starc, who has 207 at 22.33.
“I just don’t think you can write him off,” Isa Guha said. “With his ability to swing that ball in at pace, he’s got a good yorker as well. Pitches have changed in India as well.”
O’Keeffe agreed with the former England star, saying: “The fall guy could be Hazlewood, even though his white ball skills have improved so much.
“Or do all three go and have a couple of tricky bowlers on the side? We’re going to find out in the next few months.”
‘F*** sake!’ fiery Agar sprays Umpire | 00:34
ALL-ROUNDER SELECTION SQUEEZE
The inclusion of Agar as a second spinner could also create a selection squeeze higher in the order.
Australia has three batting all-rounders, who offer pace, in contention for the ODI World Cup: Marcus Stoinis, Cameron Green and Mitch Marsh.
Currently, there is only room for two of them — and that’s with Glenn Maxwell on the sidelines with a broken leg.
As such, there’s a strong chance that only one of that talented trio will make Australia’s XI in India.
There are ways more could make the cut, such as Green being used as an opener, or perhaps Marnus Labuschagne sliding up to allow for another all-rounder at No.4.
But Australia’s Plan A is to have Travis Head come good alongside David Warner, while Steve Smith and Labuschagne will be fancied at No.3 and No.4 as two of Australia’s better, if not best, players of spin.
It likely leaves Stoinis, Green and Marsh in direct competition for one spot, or two at best if Maxwell is surprisingly left out.
On Thursday, Stoinis took 1-23 from three handy overs, while Green’s seven overs were economical (0-38), albeit without a major wicket threat.
Former selector Waugh noted in commentary that Stoinis and Green bowling more than Marsh could be an issue for the latter, who was left out for the first ODI.
“The fact that Mitch Marsh is not bowling a lot doesn’t help his cause either,” Waugh said.
“If he was bowling a lot more, it’d be a really tough decision about the batting all-rounders to leave out.”
WILL ENGLAND NEED TO BEG BEN STOKES?
England won’t be ringing any alarm bells after the first ODI given it was just four days removed from its T20 World Cup win, and was far from full strength.
Nonetheless, it was a comfortable loss, and one that came with Ben Stokes sitting in ODI retirement.
Stokes, 31, gave away the format to prioritise Test and T20s with playing commitments starting to spiral out of control for all-formats players.
It was an understandable decision, but should England continue to lose 50-over matches in the build-up to next year’s World Cup, could he be swayed into a return?
England at World Cups, and in its biggest moments in general, is undoubtedly better with Stokes.
Across the last four World Cups (three T20, one ODI), England has lifted the trophy twice, and made another final with Stokes involved.
Stokes missed last year’s T20 World Cup, and England bowed out at the semi final stage.
There’s no doubt England missed the all-rounder who has been a source of strength and composure for England in its greatest ever white ball era.
In the 2019 ODI World Cup final, he made 84 off 98 balls to take the match to a Super Over, which England won.
On Sunday, he made 52 off 49 balls to see England to another world title, chasing down Pakistan’s total with six balls remaining.
He’s more than atoned for his horror show in the 2016 T20 World Cup final when Carlos Brathwaite blasted Stokes for four-consecutive sixes to win the tournament.
Stokes is a major asset England will need to do without next year with his decision seemingly made.
But Guha said selectors may not be willing to completely close the book just yet.
“There was talk they might try to persuade Ben Stokes to unretire himself,” she said in commentary.
“I’m not sure how likely that is with an Ashes, and his knee the way it is, but it’s something that will be talked about no doubt.”
O’Keeffe added: “I think that Ben Stokes question is very valid.