Australia’s biennial focus on fashioning an effective Twenty20 line-up to break their poor record at the World Twenty20 tournaments starts on Monday in Cardiff.
New Test and one-day captain Steve Smith will take the reins for the afternoon match at Swalec Stadium against England, but he made it clear he had no interest in retaining the role once full-time Twenty20 captain Aaron Finch recovered from the foot injury that has sidelined him from the entire limited-overs series.
“It’s Finchy’s team, actually . . . [which will] take a bit of weight off my shoulders I guess in this form of the game,” Smith said.
Up to five of England’s players could face Australia for the first time. Batsmen James Vince, Sam Billings, Jason Roy and all-rounder David Willey all made their international debuts earlier this summer, while left-arm paceman Reece Topley is yet to play for England. Hard-hitting opener Roy played in last season’s Big Bash League, for Sydney Thunder.
Australia’s squad contains three potential Twenty20 debutants: opener Joe Burns, who made his limited-overs debut on Thursday in Belfast, spinner Ashton Agar, who has played two Tests, and all-rounder Marcus Stoinis. who is yet to feature above Australia A level.
The match is the first of seven Twenty20s Australia will play before the 2016 World Twenty20, to be held in India in March.
Selectors have underlined their determination to mould a settled line-up in that time by flying leg-spinner Cameron Boyce over for just this match, rather than the entire one-day series.
In Australia’s 2014 World Twenty20 campaign their primary leg-spinner was James Muirhead, who has since fallen out of favour with both Australia and Victoria as he works through a difficult patch in his still-fledgling career.
Queensland Boyce played four matches last season, taking six wickets at an average of 13.67 and, most encouragingly, conceding only 5.47 runs per over.
Smith strongly suggested the 26-year-old would feature in the match against England, partly on the basis that “it’s a pretty long way to go to not play”.
“I think as a leg-spinner you’ve really got to read the batsmen quite well. I think he does that. I think he knows when someone is going to step down at him and try hit to him for six, and when they’re going to sit back. I think he adjusts his length and his pace quite well, so I’m looking forward to seeing him bowl out here,” the acting captain said.
“It’s going to be quite tough conditions, I reckon, with probably a pretty good wicket and short straight boundaries, so he’s going to have to adapt there and see how he goes.”
With all but three members of the Australian squad – Boyce, Agar and Burns – either holding or having held IPL deals, Smith reckoned acclimatising should not pose a problem at next year’s World Twenty20.
“I think we’ve got some pretty experienced T20 players. A lot of the guys that are probably going to be in the squad for that World Cup have played a lot of IPL cricket and cricket in India and adapted to those conditions, so there’s no reason why we can’t win that tournament.”
Besides the one-off match against England, Australia’s only Twenty20 matches before the World Twenty20 are three at home to India next summer and three in South Africa just before the tournament.
ENGLAND (from): Eoin Morgan (c), Moeen Ali, Sam Billings, Jos Buttler, Steve Finn, Alex Hales, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes, Reece Topley, James Vince, David Willey, Chris Woakes.
AUSTRALIA (from): Steve Smith (c), Ashton Agar, George Bailey, Cameron Boyce, Joe Burns, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Pat Cummins, Glenn Maxwell, Mitch Marsh, James Pattinson, Mitch Starc, Marcus Stoinis, Matthew Wade, Shane Watson, David Warner.