13 March 2015
Australia v Scotland Preview, Match 40, Hobart
Australian batsmen will hope for a chance to get some time in the middle against Scotland in Hobart
After big wins against England, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan - Australia has room for more.
Australia has lost only one game, to New Zealand, who has temporary bragging rights now in the trans-Tasman rivalry; it has big wins over England and Sri Lanka, and posted the highest total in ICC Cricket World Cup history against Afghanistan. And yet, there is room for more.
That’s precisely what will excite Michael Clarke, the captain, and Darren Lehmann, the coach, as the knockouts beckon. Before that, though, Australia has one more Pool A encounter to get out of the way, at the Bellerive Oval on Saturday (March 14) against winless Scotland.
In its quest for two more points, Australia will be concerned not just about their opponent, but also about the forecast – 60% chance of showers in the afternoon and evening. A washout will relegate Australia to third behind Sri Lanka on number of matches won.
The team will be hoping Clarke wins the toss, for there are a fair few in the Australian order that could do with time in the middle, the captain included. Upon his return to competitive action on February 28 in Auckland for the first time since mid-December, Clarke has had just one big hit – 68 against Sri Lanka in the last game at the SCG, but showed good touch. He will try to cram some batting time for himself, as well as for Shane Watson and James Faulkner.
Watson had a setback when he was dropped for the Afghanistan game, but a niggle to Mitchell Marsh aided his comeback for the Sri Lanka outing. Originally pencilled in at No. 5 but batting at No. 6 because Australia pushed Glenn Maxwell up to boost the scoring rate, Watson shook off a prolonged lean trot with a spectacular 41-ball 67. Like Clarke, he could do with another substantial knock. As for Faulkner, he has hardly had a bat after returning from an abdominal muscle tear, and while his finishing skills are unlikely to have diminished in a month and a half, there is no greater confidence builder than runs against your name.
Hobart is George Bailey’s hometown, and for the second time in less than two months, he will have to be content watching his teammates in action from the sidelines. He had missed the tri-series league tie against England on January 23, serving out a one-match suspension for slow over rate. Bailey led Australia to the triangular series title, and was in charge during the 111-run win over England at the MCG on February 14, where he made a crucial 55, but has not played since Clarke’s return. Bailey must be hurting, but he has had enough time to ruminate over things and make his peace.
Australia will make one change to the XI that played against Sri Lanka, bringing back Pat Cummins’s searing pace ahead of the left-arm spin of Xavier Doherty, another hometown hero. Cummins has played just the one game and perhaps needs a bowl more than Josh Hazlewood, who himself has sent down only 14.5 overs across two matches.
Meanwhile, for Scotland, this hasn’t been a great tournament, especially that heartbreaking loss to Afghanistan. If the players can summon the strength of character to acquit themselves with credit, they can still look back on this campaign with no little pride. That Josh Davey moved to the top of the wicket-takers’ list, however temporarily, is something the team can rightly be proud of. Against Sri Lanka, when it went down by 148 runs, Preston Mommsen and Freddie Coleman displayed admirable skills in making polished half-centuries. Australia’s pacers – Mitchell Johnson, Mitchell Starc, Cummins – will pose a challenge, but it is a once in a lifetime chance for several of Scotland’s batsmen to do something far removed from the ordinary.
Australia: Aaron Finch, David Warner, Steven Smith, Michael Clarke (capt), Shane Watson, James Faulkner, Glenn Maxwell, Brad Haddin, Mitchell Johnson, Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins.
Scotland (from): Kyle Coetzer, Calum MacLeod, Matt Machan, Preston Mommsen (capt), Freddie Coleman, Richie Berrington, Rob Taylor, Matthew Cross (wk), Josh Davey, Michael Leask, Alasdair Evans, Iain Wardlaw, Safyaan Sharif, Hamish Gardiner.
You can follow the build up to the game and the live scoring and match highlights for Australia v Scotland here in the ICC Match Centre.
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