Cricket-Australia’s Wade itching for World Cup after New Zealand whitewash

By Thomson Reuters Feb 25, 2024 | 8:59 PM

By Ian Ransom

MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Stand-in skipper Matthew Wade has lauded the depth of Australia’s T20 team and says selectors will have a headache picking a World Cup squad following the whitewash in New Zealand.

With regular pacemen Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood rested and opener David Warner ruled out injured, Australia completed a clean sweep of the three-match series on Sunday by winning a rain-affected clash by 27 runs at Eden Park.

In place of the absentees, versatile all-rounder Matt Short was named player of the match after smashing 27 from 11 balls and taking a wicket with his off-spin.

Backup quicks Nathan Ellis and Spencer Johnson also impressed in their two-over spells to foil New Zealand’s chase of 126 in a match reduced to 10 overs via the Duckworth-Lewis method.

“It’s going to be tight for those last few spots, I don’t envy George’s position,” Wade told reporters, referring to chief selector George Bailey.

“I wouldn’t want to be picking the 15, there’s going to be a couple of unlucky players.

“But as I said there’s always injury around, guys that are outside the 15 may get opportunities as well so we’re happy we’ve got so much depth.”

The series was Australia’s last international hit-out before the T20 World Cup begins in the Caribbean and United States in June, though selectors will consider the form of players in the Indian Premier League which starts March 22.

Australia, the current one-day and test world champions, will bid to become the first nation to hold all three global trophies by winning the T20 tournament. England are the reigning T20 champions.

Steve Smith hopes to be a part of the World Cup campaign but the jury is out on his reinvention as a T20 opener.

He was caught behind for four on Sunday after managing 11 in the previous match in Auckland.

Smith was snubbed at the IPL auctions late last year and other players, namely Warner, Travis Head and skipper Mitchell Marsh, have stronger claims at the top of the order.

“Obviously Smithy hasn’t played a heap of T20 cricket in the last little bit for Australia,” said Wade.

“Fingers crossed he makes it but there’s always going to be someone who’s unlucky.”

The middle order is also crowded, with hard-hitting batsman Tim David, wicketkeeper-batsman Josh Inglis and all-rounders Glenn Maxwell and Marcus Stoinis all jostling for spots.

“It’s an exciting time to be in the T20 squad, and I can’t wait to get started at the World Cup, to be honest,” said Wade.

(Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Editing by Himani Sarkar)