FLEM’S VERDICT: ‘Write it off as a shocker’ – No need for panic stations despite Aussies’ World Cup nightmare

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Wow. What a shellacking!

Australia’s T20 World Cup opener against New Zealand was really all over after four overs, when they were at 56 without loss.

That’s the beauty of T20 cricket – the game’s short, punchy, and pressurised. You can lose a game in no time at all.

It’s the same for this tournament as a whole – you lose one game, and you’ve got to win every other one, which is the challenge facing Australia now.

The Aussies wouldn’t be the first team to win the tournament after having a shocker in the first game. One thing a defeat like that does do is, it clears things up. You actually can’t think about losing anymore – they’ve got to win six games in a row now to defend the title. The net run rate’s horrible as well, so they’re going to have to win well, too.

Certainly, it’s a massive blow, but this is an experienced team for a reason, so they’ve just got to galvanise and back themselves. I’d expect us to come back pretty hard.

It’s an interesting question they face – write it off as a one-off and back the team you’ve come in with, or take drastic action and shake things up?

I wouldn’t say there’s any need for major changes – I’d just be riding it out as an absolute shocker and getting back to the plans laid before the tournament.

We picked this squad for a reason, they’ve been a very good T20 team, and they need to go into the next five games with a positive mindset. Every game’s a final now.

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Another reason against making mass changes is that you’ve only got a certain amount of people in the squad: off the top of my head, they picked the team that was really the best to win that game.

I don’t know how much they can really change the team to take on Sri Lanka in Perth. Even if Steven Smith comes in – really, this game was over once we lost early wickets, so how much of a difference would he really have made?

Cam Green is another bowling option to consider, but it’s a bit similar to what we already have: another tall, right-arm quick.

In hindsight, could Ashton Agar have come in for someone to go with two spinners like the Black Caps did? Possibly – but then it’s one of Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins left out, isn’t it?

Pat Cummins of Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

I can’t see that change happening in Perth, or even at the MCG against England. Our quicks should work well there, because it’s bigger square of the wicket than at the SCG.

Assuming we get over Sri Lanka on Tuesday, if we get over England too, and they want to make sure Agar’s had a game, possibly in Adelaide against Afghanistan is where that change could be made.

My gut feel is you’ve got to back the team in that you’ve picked in Game 1, and hope they click. You want to go through unchanged, that means you’re winning and everyone’s in form.

They’ll want to get the confidence up, so I’d still go in with the same XI against Sri Lanka, regroup, and try to get everyone into form. At least then those 11 players will go into the England game with that being their third match of the tournament.

As I said in the article leading into the tournament, it’s an experienced group. They’ve played a lot of cricket together, they won the whole thing 12 months ago in conditions that were probably foreign, and they’re at home.

Can they turn it around? Yes they can, but one more slip-up and they’re out.

There was supposed to be rain around, but happily the weather didn’t dampen the cricket – but Finn Allen certainly dampened our World Cup chances!

It was his first game against Australia in T20 cricket, and it almost felt like we didn’t have a plan against him. There were so many length balls from the quicks that he could go after.

I remember covering one of the ODIs against the Black Caps a few weeks ago up in Townsville, and the New Zealand commentators were surprised Allen didn’t play. I’m not saying whether New Zealand might have hidden him from the Aussies, but it certainly looked like they just didn’t have a clue where to bowl to him, particularly when he started going.

Josh Hazlewood shows his frustration.

Josh Hazlewood shows his frustration during the T20 World Cup match between Australia and New Zealand. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe-ICC/ICC via Getty Images,)

Tactically, Allen was an unknown quantity – obviously, they would have known he scores very quickly – but once he got going, there were just too many length balls that he just kept whacking over the infield and over the fence.

Well played by New Zealand there, but I don’t think other teams Australia face are going to have that sort of X-factor, that unknown factor, that New Zealand had with Allen.

Compare it to England’s big three of Jos Buttler, Alex Hales and Ben Stokes – they know what they’re up against there.

Then there was Devon Conway at the other end, who’s such a versatile player in all three formats. He got Allen the strike and then took over once he got out. Conway’s a very good player of spin as well.

He played Adam Zampa particularly well: that was our one chance of getting back into the game, if maybe spin could slow it down a little bit, and that didn’t prove the case.

It was such a difficult pair to bowl to as well for the Aussies – with Allen the right-hander and Conway the left-hander, you couldn’t really get into a rhythm against one type of batter.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 22: Devon Conway of New Zealand bats during the ICC Men's T20 World Cup match between Australia and New Zealand at Sydney Cricket Ground on October 22, 2022 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Jason McCawley-ICC/ICC via Getty Images)

Devon Conway. (Photo by Jason McCawley-ICC/ICC via Getty Images)

When you’ve got two quality players hitting big shot after big shot, It just goes at a million miles an hour. Often you’re only bowling one-over spells in T20 cricket too, so you really need to slow things down and have a set play for each ball, which is where Australia let themselves down a bit. But you’re under time constraints as well now with those new rules.

They’re an experienced crew, so that’s why I’d say to write it off as a one-off. I’m pretty sure nine times out of ten, they would know to slow the game down, and think ‘Okay, Allen’s going really hard, so how do we get Conway on strike and try to get some dot balls?’

Last night, New Zealand were up to 50 straight away, and it was like ‘How did they get there? This game’s absolutely gone.’

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I didn’t have New Zealand making the semis before the tournament, because I had Australia and England in from their group, but I did say it wouldn’t surprise me if they got through, and they could actually win it all if they did. It’s that tight in this group.

To have that hitting power at the top of the order – and then even Jimmy Neesham down the order, what a power hitter to have come in late in the innings.

They’re quite an experienced bowling attack, and they’ll have a lot of confidence in the actual team they’ve got. Trent Boult and Tim Southee with the new ball are so dangerous. Mitch Santner and Ish Sodhi: handy spinners. And Lockie Ferguson is the X-factor with genuine pace.

Sometimes you’ve just got to tip the cap and acknowledge you’ve been outplayed – and I look at that New Zealand team, and it’s certainly one that could go all the way.

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