England secured a 12-run victory over Australia in the final ODI to wrap up a 4-1 series win that left Steve Smith’s troops somewhat shell-shocked. The glory of the Ashes triumph has faded and been replaced by consternation about the state of Australia’s limited-overs set-up. It was a pretty dismal series, peppered with capitulations and underwhelming performances as the tourists secured a well-deserved series win with two matches to spare. But they say you learn more from defeats than you do from victories, and the nature of this embarrassment can spur the team on to greater heights going forwards. Here are five positives they can take from the ODI series and build upon in future:
Aaron Finch remains a devastating weapon
All the hype heading into the series surrounded Smith, the world’s top batsmen, who had just driven his test side to a stunning 4-0 Ashes victory. But the captain failed to hit the heights expected of him, and neither did vice-captain David Warner. However, one big name never let his team down: Finch hit centuries in the first two ODIs and was Australia’s top scorer on 62 in the third. Injury forced him out of the final two matches, and you could easily argue that Australia would have won the final ODI had he been in the team. During the series Finch hit his tenth ODI century in his 83rd innings, a quicker rate than any Australian before him, including Warner. That bodes well for the ODI team going forwards.
Travis Head has a bright future
Finch’s injury opened the door for Head to come into the team and stake a claim for a regular place – and he grabbed the opportunity with both hands. He was the star of the show in the fourth ODI and inspired the hosts to their sole victory in an otherwise disappointing series. He steadied the ship for Australia while those around him faltered, taking a leaf from Smith’s book by batting with determination and diligence to put together a strong knock that guided his team to victory. If you take a look at the latest odds you will see that Australia have a chance to gain instant revenge in limited-overs cricket against England as the T20 series is about to start. Head is in the team and he is in fine form, so Australia could soon regain bragging rights.
Australia improved as the series progressed
In the first ODI, Australia were just plain awful, and all-rounder Mitch Marsh admitted they were suffering an Ashes hangover. He did not specify whether he meant literal or metaphorical, but it was clear that the team lacked focus. They were dreadfully disappointing in the second match too, but arose from their slumber after that. They came within a whisker of winning the third: they set England a target of 286, and reduced them to 189-6 on a slow pitch, so they must have thought victory was theirs. Then up stepped Jos Buttler with a majestic century to lead England to an improbable victory in Sydney. That was a bitter pill to swallow, but the performance was far better, and Australia were dominant in the fourth ODI, where they secured a three-wicket victory.
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The fifth ODI saw them chasing 259 and once again they must have sensed victory when they reached 189-4, only for swing bowler Tom Curran to put them to the sword and secure a nail-biting 12-run win for the tourists. If they continue on this upward curve and learn to focus in every single match, they should be able to turn their results around.
It might make the selectors reconsider Nathan Lyon
Australia are blessed with a superstar trio of quicks in Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins, but they needed another option in the ODIs. Nathan Lyon, who humiliated England so frequently during the Ashes, was once again left out and showed Australia what they were missing by excelling at the Big Bash. England won the third ODI thanks to the effectiveness of spin trio Adil Rashid, Joe Root and Moeen Ali, and Australia had no answer. Lyon was conspicuous by his absence and made a compelling case for future inclusion, despite not even playing.
England were very good
It may be scant consolation for fans after Australia’s Ashes dominance, but England are an extremely good ODI side nowadays. Since Trevor Bayliss took over as head coach in 2015, they have the world’s best ODI win-loss ratio, and they are closing in on the world number one ranking. They brought in a range of ODI experts for the series and Australia struggled to contain them. But there is plenty of evidence to suggest that Australia can turn their form around and go on to challenge the likes of India and England in limited-overs cricket ahead of the 2019 World Cup if they continue to improve.