Australia’s T20 World Cup top order settled: Marsh

Ben McKay |

Australia’s T20 top-three is all-but-confirmed ahead of the World Cup, skipper Mitch Marsh says.
Australia’s T20 top-three is all-but-confirmed ahead of the World Cup, skipper Mitch Marsh says.

Twenty20 captain Mitch Marsh has given the strongest indication yet that Steve Smith isn’t in Australia’s preferred top three, raising further doubts over whether the former skipper will go to June’s World Cup.

The three-match series against New Zealand starting on Wednesday will be Australia’s last T20 workout before the tournament in the West Indies and the United States.

Smith would be unlikely to command a spot in the middle order, meaning his best chance of featuring in the World Cup would be in a top three Marsh described on Tuesday as “pretty set”.

“I’ve batted three for the last 18 months so I’ll be there,” Marsh said in Wellington.

“Heady (Travis Head) and Davy Warner have been amazing for us over the last period of time, so I dare say that’ll be the top three.”

Mitch Marsh and Steve Smith.
Marsh’s comments hint we may have seen the back of Steve Smith in Twenty20s for Australia. (AP PHOTO)

Given the middle-order power of Glenn Maxwell, Josh Inglis, Marcus Stoinis -who misses this tour with back soreness – and Tim David, Marsh’s comments seriously bring into question whether Smith is in Australia’s best XI.

The 34-year-old former skipper won’t get to push his case in the upcoming Indian Premier League, either, as he does not have a contract.

But Smith may well feature in the T20 series against New Zealand, as Australia manage loads and shuffle the deck.

Coach Andrew McDonald said over the weekend he was keen to use the series to experiment with “the pieces of the puzzle” – but Marsh insisted he was primarily interested in results.

“Whilst we look ahead and it happens a lot … especially in World Cup years, we’re here to win the series,” he said.

“There’ll be certain guys that bat in probably different positions … but ultimately we’re here to win.”

Marsh has yet to be confirmed as the World Cup captain, but said he didn’t feel on trial after replacing Pat Cummins as T20 skipper for the recent home series against West Indies and the NZ games.

NZ captain Mitchell Santner (left) and Mitch Marsh.
NZ captain Mitchell Santner (left) and Mitch Marsh with the T20 series trophy in Wellington. (Marty Melville/AAP PHOTOS)

“I’m not auditioning for the role. I’m here to do a job,” he said.

“I’m very proud to captain Australia within the series and those decisions will be made over the coming months.”

Australia are still without two of their squad, with late call-up Spencer Johnson arriving on Tuesday night and Matthew Wade staying home for the birth of his child.

New Zealand – who ruined Australia’s T20 World Cup chances in 2022 with a thumping first-match victory at the SCG – are coming in without key names.

Kane Williamson’s partner is expecting his third child, while Daryl Mitchell (foot), Matt Henry (hip) and Tim Seifert (abductor) are sidelined by injury.

Veteran quick Trent Boult is also out for game one.

“We’re probably underdogs, but we’re used to that tag,” Kiwi skipper Mitchell Santner said.

“You want to test yourself against the best in the world and they’re up there for sure.”

Rachin Ravindra and Finn Allen loom as dangermen for New Zealand, with Allen last month blasting a world record-equalling 16 sixes in a 62-ball 137.

“Finn is an outstanding talent … his record over the past 12 months, and especially at home in New Zealand – he can take the game away from you in that powerplay,” Marsh said.

NZ players celebrate against Australia at 2022 T20 World Cup.
The Kiwis gave Australia a shock at the 2022 World Cup. (Dean Lewins/AAP PHOTOS)

AUSTRALIA TOUR OF NEW ZEALAND (all times AEDT)

* Chappell-Hadlee Trophy

First T20: February 21, 5.10pm (Sky Stadium, Wellington)

Second T20: February 23, 5.10pm (Eden Park, Auckland)

Third T20: February 25, 11am (Eden Park, Auckland)

* Trans-Tasman Trophy

First Test: February 29-March 4, 9am (Basin Reserve, Wellington)

Second Test: March 8-12, 9am (Hagley Oval, Christchurch)

* Australia T20 squad

Mitch Marsh (capt), Pat Cummins, Tim David, Nathan Ellis, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Josh Inglis, Spencer Johnson, Glenn Maxwell, Matt Short, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Matthew Wade, David Warner, Adam Zampa.

* New Zealand T20 squad

Mitchell Santner (capt), Finn Allen, Trent Boult, Mark Chapman, Josh Clarkson, Devon Conway, Lockie Ferguson, Adam Milne, Glenn Phillips, Rachin Ravindra, Ben Sears, Ish Sodhi, Tim Southee (game one only), Will Young.

AAP