A second-straight thrashing in India and a five-match ODI losing streak was enough for Australian stand-in captain Steve Smith to declare his team was a “fair way off” where they need to be two weeks out from the start of the World Cup.
A bowling attack minus Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc conceded 399, India’s biggest ever total in an ODI against Australia, and then Smith made a golden duck as the batters again crumbled, limping to just 217 in reply in the rain-hit match.
It came after the injury-hit Aussies, who are yet to field their preferred World Cup XI, lost the final three games in South Africa and with captain Cummins and Mitch Marsh both rested as selectors juggle the workload of the squad in a bid to be peaking in the tournament.
With just three games – a third against India and two warm-up matches – before the World Cup, first choice fast bowler Mitchell Starc is yet to play a game of cricket since the Ashes and all-rounder Glenn Maxwell is overcoming an ankle injury.
Spinner Ashton Agar, who is in Australia’s provisional 15-player squad that has to be finalised by September 28, played two T20s in South Africa before leaving the tour and there’s speculation 21-year-old Tanveer Sangha could take his place.
Each team gets to take three injury-reserve players to the World Cup and selectors are also weighing up whether to keep Travis Head, who has a broken hand and won’t be available until the second half of the tournament, in the 15-man squad.
Smith, who made 41 in the opening match in India after overcoming a wrist injury before his duck in the second, conceded the Aussies were not quite at their best through the opening two games.
But he said the plan was to peak during the World Cup.
“We were a fair way off. We’ve lost quite a few in a row now,” said Smith, who was out first ball in just the second over throwing his hands at a wide delivery.
“World Cups are about peaking at the right time, we certainly haven’t done that at this stage. A few things to sort out. We know we are a good side. Both teams are working towards the World Cup but still want to win games.”
Starc, who injured his bowling shoulder in the final Ashes Test at The Oval and also suffered a groin issue, upped his bowling workload in India and was adamant he would be ready for the World Cup despite his limited preparation.
“There was a few things going on during the Ashes, which we found out post-Ashes,” Starc told cricket.com, hopeful of playing in the third ODI on Wednesday and then the two warm-up matches to follow.
“There was a little bit going on in the (groin) region … so that’s obviously lengthened the recovery time.
“The shoulder has been good since the Ashes; it’s just making sure that I was ready to go for the World Cup and not compromising that.”
All-rounder Cameron Green continued his worrying poor form, with his bowling figures of 2-103 the most runs conceded by a bowler in an Australia-India ODI. He’s also made just 68 runs in three innings with the bat and was run out in ugly fashion for just 19.
Sean Abbott also conceded 91 runs with the ball, but then hit five sixes making 54 with the bat. He conceded the Aussies got it wrong.
“We didn’t execute greatly with the ball,” Abbott said.
“As soon as we missed the stumps, we were punished.”