Five reasons for Australia's recent struggles in away ODIs
In the 2nd ODI of the ongoing series between India and Australia, the hosts defeated Australia by 50 runs and took a 2-0 lead in the 5-match series. This loss also meant that Australia haven't won an away ODI since 27th September 2016.
For a team that have won 58% of their away ODIs, this is unusual. In this article, we highlight a few of the reasons which have caused the Kangaroos' away misery of late.
P.S: All the stats are only for away ODIs played between September 2016 and September 2017:
#1 Opening Woes
Over the years, Australia have been known to have strong opening partnerships. Be it Hayden-Gilchrist, Watson-Haddin or even Warner-Finch, these pairs used to propel Australia to flying starts. In addition, these pairs were steady and they were persisted with at the top of the order for a long time.
However, in the last year, this has not been the case for the current World Champions. In 12 away games played, four different opening combinations have been tried. The opening partnerships have averaged 36 at a strike rate of 94.73.
During this period, only two 50+ and one 100+ opening stands have been recorded. In fact, the last opening stand of more than 50 came almost a year back, on Australia's tour of South Africa. Quite clearly, a lack of strong starts has scuppered Australia's plans.
#2 Steve Smith's slump
For a batsman who leads the ICC Test rankings by a country-mile, it is rather surprising to see Steve Smith at the 13th position in the ICC ODI rankings for batsmen. However, a closer look at the numbers reveals exactly why Australia's captain is so far off in the ODI rankings.
In the last one year, Smith has featured in 10 away ODIs. In these, he has aggregated 297 runs at an average of 37.12 and a strike rate of 83.19. In the Champions Trophy game versus England and in the previous ODI versus India, he was guilty of getting off to a good start and then being dismissed, thereby hurting his team's chances.
Given that he is the mainstay of Australia's batting, the 28-year-old really needs to up his game in away ODIs to revive Australia's fortunes.
#3 Bowling blemishes
In the ICC ODI rankings for bowlers, there are two Australians in the top five; Josh Hazlewood occupies the top spot followed by Mitchell Starc at number three. Unfortunately, the duo have been involved in only five of the 12 away ODIs that the Aussies have played in the last year.
Australia's bowling numbers in away ODIs over the last year read 3336 runs in 551 overs at 6.05 runs per over. They've pegged 87 wickets in these matches at over seven wickets in an innings. In only three of these 12 games have they been able to dismiss the opposition (Starc and Hazlewood were involved in two of these).
Australia's cause has also not been helped by the fact that three of their 'Big 4' namely Starc, James Pattinson and Hazlewood have been sidelined due to injuries. The responsibility has fallen on the shoulders of Nathan Coulter-Nile, Pat Cummins, Marcus Stoinis, Adam Zampa and Kane Richardson, none of whom have played more than 25 ODIs.
#4 Run-ins with the Rain Gods
South Africa's name springs up in any cricket discussion related to bad luck with rains. However, in the past year, rain has followed Australia everywhere they've gone and scuppered their plans.
Rain has interfered in six of Australia's 13 scheduled away ODIs over the last year. In fact, at the ICC Champions Trophy, each of Australia's games was marred by rain. While the games against New Zealand and Bangladesh were called off after the completion of an innings, the one against England was curtailed via the intervention of the Duckworth-Lewis method. Without winning a single game, the current world champions made a rather acrimonious exit from the Champions Trophy.
In both games of the ongoing series versus India, rains have made an appearance, thereby altering the conditions and also slowing down momentum. Steve Smith and his men will be praying for the Rain Gods to stay away for good.
#5 Squad shuffles
When one thinks of the great Australian team of the early 2000s, the one thing that comes to mind is the consistency with respect to team selection. In any given series, one could easily predict who would make the squad, albeit with a few additions and omissions here and there.
The current Australian team, however, have a knack for experimentation, with 31 different players making the Australian squad for four away tours held over the last year. While some of these changes have been forced due to injuries, there are some others which have clearly been experimentations that have bombed.
The below table is a comparison of ICC's top four ODI teams in terms of the number of away tours and squad members used for the same:
*Away tours played between September 2016 and September 2017
It would do the Aussies a world of good if they were to settle for a consistent set of players rather than experimenting rampantly.