Australian captain Aaron Finch warned before the team’s game against Ireland that they had to first earn the right to “go after a run-rate enhancing performance”.
Having squandered a chance to do just that late in the win over Ireland, Australia now simply has no other option than to win and win big against Afghanistan on Friday night.
That is certainly the advice from former Australian cricket coach Justin Langer, who drew on past experience to urge Finch’s side to be “fearless” in their batting approach.
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MATCH CENTRE: Australia vs Afghanistan, full scoreboard, stats
Finch only a ’70 percent chance’ | 00:50
Writing a column for The West Australian, Langer touched on last year’s successful Twenty20 World Cup campaign in the UAE and two key moments that are “significant reminders” ahead of tonight’s game.
“The first felt like a punch in the nose,” he wrote.
“But like a good left jab, it acted as a wake-up call and was the catalyst for what was to come. The second was an opportunity. An opportunity presented, which we took hungrily to reignite our campaign.”
Langer described England’s dominant win over Australia as a “lightbulb moment” which put them on a path to becoming T20 champions.
It could be the same this time around for Australia, even if the task is more difficult, but only if they change their mindset.
“Game two against England was an annihilation for us,” he wrote.
“Bowled out for 125, England smashed us to all parts of the Dubai International Stadium. Beaten so badly, our net run rate was destroyed. Everything had to go right for us to remedy that issue alone.
“A lightbulb moment occurred straight after that defeat. We sat around the changing room and agreed, without hesitation, that we had to change our mindset if we were even going to compete with the best teams.
“England were completely ruthless. Fearless in their approach.”
So, Langer wrote that the team agreed they had to be similarly fearless, that England had provided a “blueprint” of sorts on how to play T20 cricket.
Australia have spoken this week of not “pushing too hard” in Friday’s game and Langer is wary of that risk.
“Like Australia have done in the last week, we vowed back then not to talk of the net run rate,” he wrote.
But Australia went on to bowl Bangladesh out for 73 in the game after that heavy defeat to England and suddenly had a chance to keep their T20 World Cup dream alive.
“Experience had told us that run rate distractions can take the focus off the No.1 priority, winning the game,” Langer wrote.
“In theory this is correct, but often the rule book goes over the side when the fighting begins.
Australia is at their best when they are selfless and fearless with the bat. Not only is that the formula for all the great players and teams, but it is certainly the approach for this Australian combination.”
Aussies WC hopes hanging by a thread? | 01:50
Matthew Wade said similar on ABC Radio at the time, describing the loss to England as a “turning point”.
“They destroyed us in the World Cup,” Wade said.
“It was probably a turning point for the way we go about playing T20. We had to start to go a little bit harder, especially towards the top and then back-end it with seven batters. We stuck to that formula after they destroyed us in the World Cup.”
Langer also advised Australia to go after Afghanistan’s batsmen, who he said struggle against pace bowlers.
“Australia has an opportunity to exploit this weakness tonight,” he wrote.
“They also have an opportunity to do something special with the bat. New Zealand showed them how in game one. Now is the moment to seize the opportunity and progress through to the semifinals.”
Australia may have to do that without Finch though after the captain said Thursday he could pull out of his team’s game against Afghanistan because of a hamstring injury.
Finch hit form on Monday with a 44-ball 63 in the win against Ireland but was unable to field after feeling a “twinge” during Ireland’s innings.
Both opener Finch and middle-order batsman Tim David, who also has a hamstring niggle, are struggling to be fit.
“I will test out properly this afternoon to make sure that I am not hindering the side at all leading into the game,” said Finch.
“Because that’s the worst possible scenario that you leave the guys short out there with one player fewer.” David hurt his hamstring while batting and did not take field in Ireland’s chase.
“He is in exactly the same boat. We will know more during training,” said Finch. Wicketkeeper Wade will lead Australia if Finch has to sit out.
New Zealand play Sri Lanka in the first match of an Adelaide double-header on Friday, while England face Sri Lanka on Saturday in Sydney in the final Group 1 encounter.
Afghanistan, who are out of the final-four race after two of their matches were washed out, have injury concerns over leading spinner Rashid Khan.
Rashid struggled with his back and a knee problem in the defeat to Sri Lanka, but assistant coach Rais Ahmadzai said Thursday he was “fine and training” and the side wanted to finish the tournament in style.
“It’s really not an easy game for us, to play against Australia in Australian conditions, but we are here to give them a tough time,” said Ahmadzai.
“I think Australia will be under pressure because they want to win, and we are here to finish the tournament with a high morale.”
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