20 April, 2024
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Australia, NZ places on the line for T20 World Cup

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All eyes are on Steve Smith as the former Australia skipper looks to lock down a place in the T20 World Cup squad with impressive performances on the tour of New Zealand.

The trans-Tasman rivals play game one of a three-T20 series in Wellington on Wednesday night, with the first ball at 5.10pm AEDT.

A bumper crowd is expected in the Kiwi capital with more than 20,000 tickets sold at the 33,000-capacity venue.

The series is Australia’s last bilateral before June’s WT20 World Cup in the West Indies and USA, and the last chance for World Cup hopefuls to impress in an Australian shirt.

Smith is in the gun after comments from current T20 captain Mitch Marsh that the top three of the batting order is effectively locked down, with Travis Head and David Warner as openers and himself at first drop.

“I think our top order’s pretty set moving forward,” he said.

Smith, 34, is one of the modern greats and has gone to the last three tournaments, including the victorious 2021 campaign.

But his recent T20 form for Australia has been far from convincing with eight single-digit scores in the past 15 matches – a 52 against India last November his only half-century in the last 25 outings.

Conventional wisdom would suggest Smith cannot compete with the power-hitting middle-order options like Glenn Maxwell, Marcus Stoinis and Josh Inglis, meaning he could find himself in a shootout with fellow top-order option Matt Short.

However, batting orders are flexible and this series will see rotation as selectors get a glimpse of what they want to see.

“I don’t think everyone’s gonna play all three games throughout this series so certain guys will bat in certain places,” Marsh said.

It may be worth prioritising Short and Smith in New Zealand given both went unsold at the Indian Premier League auction.

With the ball, Nathan Ellis will get the chance to press World Cup claims after recovering from a rib injury as will fellow quick Spencer Johnson, called up for the injured Stoinis. 

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