Finch backing Agar to become T20 finisher

Updated October 30, 2019

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Australia captain Aaron Finch is hoping spin bowler Ashton Agar can blossom into a swashbuckling ‘finisher’ in the batting lineup to give the team more flexibility ahead of next year’s T20 World Cup. — Reuters/File
Australia captain Aaron Finch is hoping spin bowler Ashton Agar can blossom into a swashbuckling ‘finisher’ in the batting lineup to give the team more flexibility ahead of next year’s T20 World Cup. — Reuters/File

BRISBANE: Australia captain Aaron Finch is hoping spin bowler Ashton Agar can blossom into a swashbuckling ‘finisher’ in the batting lineup to give the team more flexibility ahead of next year’s T20 World Cup.

Left-arm spinner Agar, who has averaged 13.66 with the bat from 16 Twenty20 Internationals, was named at seven in the batting order in the series-opener against Sri Lanka on Sunday but went unused as Australia’s top order dominated in the 134-run victory in Adelaide.

Australia will look to take an unassailable 2-0 lead in the three-match T20 series against Sri Lanka at the Gabba on Wednesday.

While Agar is some way short of all-rounder status, Finch said the 26-year-old was working hard to get there.

“His batting is still developing,” Finch told reporters in Brisbane on Tuesday. “Something that he’s been working on is becoming that real finisher towards the back end of an innings in T20 and in one-day games.

“So if he can keep developing that, it’ll give you a lot of options to play that second spinner or go with four quicks, or if there’s another all-rounder that comes in.”

On Sunday, hard-hitting all-rounder Glenn Maxwell was sent in ahead of number three Steve Smith and smashed 62 off 28 balls after David Warner (100 not out) and Finch (64) set up a 122-run opening partnership.

The captain’s call denied former skipper Smith a chance to bat in his first full international on home soil since serving a 12-month ball-tampering ban.

Finch said he wanted his batsmen to be ready to play anywhere in the order according to match situations, to make the team more competitive when they host the T20 World Cup.

“I think at all times, you’ll see four or five guys in the sheds with their pads on,” said Finch. “To be really flexible as a middle order, prepared to go in at any stage, is important to catch teams off guard.

“If you’ve got left and right-hand combinations, there are a few options there, so it’s a nicely balanced side at the moment.”

With the T20 World Cup the only major piece of silverware missing in Australia’s bursting trophy cabinet, Cricket Australia have scheduled a glut of T20 matches to help the world’s fifth-ranked team build.

“It’s a really great time to be playing T20 cricket for Australia because you’re getting enough game time to start to develop that squad mentality,” said Finch.

“Now we’ve got a specific date in mind, which is the start of the World Cup, to really build that 12-month foundation of a really solid T20 side that can beat the best and sustain that for a long period of time.”

Australia are hot favourites to beat Sri Lanka on Wednesday Finch said each match the team now play would be viewed through the wider lens of next year’s World Cup on home soil — a piece of silverware conspicuously missing from the hosts’ trophy cabinet.

Central in Australia’s plans is the compilation of a playing squad with considerable experience at international level, something that team rotation is set to provide. Such a process is already in action, with Mitchell Starc permitted to miss Wednesday night’s fixture in order to attend his brother’s wedding, paving the way for the likely inclusion of pacemen Billy Stanlake or Sean Abbott.

Teams (from):

AUSTRALIA: Aaron Finch (captain), Ashton Agar, Alex Carey, Pat Cummins, Glenn Maxwell, Ben McDermott, Kane Richardson, Steve Smith, Billy Stanlake, Mitchell Starc, Ashton Turner, David Warner, Adam Zampa, Sean Abbott.

SRI LANKA: Lasith Malinga (captain), Kusal Perera, Kusal Mendis, Danushka Gunathilaka, Avishka Fernando, Niroshan Dickwella, Dasun Shanaka, Shehan Jayasuriya, Bhanuka Rajapaksa, Oshada Fernando, Wanindu Hasaranga, Lakshan Sandakan, Nuwan Pradeep, Lahiru Kumara, Isuru Udana, Kasun Rajitha.

Umpires: Gerard Abood (Australia) and Paul Wilson (Australia).

TV umpire: Shawn Craig (Australia).

Match referee: Javagal Srinath (India).

Published in Dawn, October 30th, 2019