Despite their tournament-opening hammering at the hands of India, Australia have bounced back convincingly and are looking primed to put up a very different challenge to India this time around. Here's what they need to do to achieve that.
Put India under pressure
India have won by their five games by margins of 100, 131, and 203 runs, and 10 wickets twice. They are yet to be tested, and while that’s a sign of their strength, it also means if they do find themselves in a scrap they may be unsure how to approach it. “They haven’t been challenged really at all during this tournament,” said Ryan Harris. “So our job is to try and challenge them, put them under pressure, and hopefully they crack.”
Particularly their middle order
If India have a weakness, it is their batting beyond their top three, with just one half-century having come from No. 4 and lower for them in the tournament so far. That came from Abhishek Sharma, and discounting him their numbers are even more ordinary – despite being given excellent platforms to work with, no other batsman has managed to score more than 11 at a strike-rate of more than 100. If Australia can get India two down early, they should be aiming to run through their opposition.
Get past Shubman and Prithvi
It’s a huge if, however, because inside India’s top three are the tournament’s two form batsmen – Prithvi Shaw and Shubman Gill. The former was player of the match in India’s opening victory against Australia, striking 94, and is yet to be dismissed for less than 40. Gill’s form has been even more astonishing: he has a lowest score of 63 in this tournament, is currently on a run of six consecutive fifty-plus scores in Under 19 ODIs – the last of which was a monumental hundred in the Semi-Final against Pakistan which earned him the player of the match award – and averages 11.80 in the format, the highest for anyone with more than 250 U19 ODI runs. Neither has an obvious weakness, but that will just make the shock all the greater for India if Australia can find chinks in their respective armours.
Negotiate the quicks
Australia’s traditional weakness – playing spin – has actually been a strength at this tournament. Even in that loss to India they took Anukul Roy for 36 in five overs, and, according to batting coach Chris Rogers “the batsmen picked just about everything” against Afghanistan. But against India the first time around they lost a combined 6/74 against Shivam Mavi and Kamlesh Nagarkoti, two bowlers capable of speeds upwards of 145 KPH. It will be a trial by fire, but if Australia can get through it, they’ve shown they can prosper elsewhere.
Not get too caught up in the opposition
Paradoxically, considering most of this list has been about the strengths and weaknesses India have, Australia’s best bet might be to focus inwardly on how they can perform to their best, and the weapons with which they can hurt India – Lloyd Pope’s rip, Jack Edwards’ belligerence, Jason Sangha’s craftsmanship, and Zak Evans’ pace to name but four – rather than focus on their opponents too greatly. It’s a been a theme of their statements to the press throughout the tournament – Jason Sangha said, “The best thing about our cricket is we’ve been focussing on ourselves” before their Semi-Final against Afghanistan. It worked then; surely it would be an error to deviate now.