Australia’s men begin their international summer with eyes firmly on a year from now: the T20 World Cup on home soil. It is the global prize that has eluded them, in a format they have struggled to grasp. With the next 50-over World Cup four years away and the Test side rebuilding steadily after a difficult year, there is a sense they are now going to give T20 cricket a proper focus.
Whether it works remains to be seen, but a home World Cup means there won’t be many unknowns in terms of conditions and there were some promising signs with their last two series being a draw (at home) and a win (away) against India. Where the unknowns remain a year out is in what Australia’s best T20I side looks like. The start of the series against Sri Lanka – which begins a run of six matches in quick succession – is a chance to start answering a few questions.
The series marks the home international returns of David Warner and Steven Smith – two players who need to re-establish their roles in the T20I side – and a chance for the frontline pacemen, Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc, to settle into the team having often missed this format due to rest and rotation.
They are facing a Sri Lanka side buoyed by their recent, somewhat unexpected, success in Pakistan with what was billed a shadow team due to a long list of players not touring but ended up with a 3-0 scoreline which has suddenly boosted their options with an eye on next year’s World Cup.
Sri Lanka’s struggles in recent years means they have to go through the pre-qualifying phase of the tournament but there is time for them to build a team that should leave them confident of progressing to the main draw. The batting, in Australia in particular, remains a concern and they were rusty against the Prime Minister’s XI, but the bowling attack has enough variation to pose issues for Australia.