Home » Head leads fast-starting Aussies into unfamiliar Cup territory | cricket.com.au

Head leads fast-starting Aussies into unfamiliar Cup territory | cricket.com.au

His tournament kick-started by an England tactical misstep, Travis Head has vowed to maintain the belligerent Powerplay approach that has put Australia in the unfamiliar position of starting a World Cup on the right foot.

Head admitted his relief at seeing part-time spinner Will Jacks thrown the new ball instead of Ashes tormentor Mark Wood or England’s premier paceman Jofra Archer in a win that has put the Aussies in the box seat to qualify for the next stage of the T20 tournament.

The Powerplay has been decisive at this World Cup – excluding the one Super Over-decided game and one washout, only four out of 19 matches so far have been won by teams losing it – which made David Warner and Head’s initial 74-run six-over blitz even more significant.  

Jos Buttler later said his “gut call” to bowl Jacks to the two left-handed openers was a mistake, though Head noted Jacks had the wood on him after dismissing him in an Indian Premier League game in April.

“He’s a fifty-fifty chance going on recent results,” the laconic South Australian drily pointed out as the Aussies made the short flight north from Barbados to Antigua on Sunday ahead of their next match against Namibia.

“Nice not to have to face ‘Woody’ or Jofra early. Two very high-quality pace bowlers. When you get a spinner you back your chances, more so on the variety of the wicket. 

“There was a couple (of balls) that did different things, but with spin I find you can be a little bit more consistent with the up and down bounce which we’d seen from Jofra in (his first) over.”

Shaky for the first half of their batting innings against Oman, Australia have since hardly put a foot wrong in their two matches – a stark contrast to how they have gotten their past three World Cups underway.

At the 2021 T20 event they won in the UAE, the Aussies narrowly beat South Africa, lost to England and then were fortunate to qualify from their group on net run-rate. In the next edition of the tournament the following year, a first-up defeat to New Zealand essentially cost them a chance at defending their title.

And their 2023 ODI World Cup triumph in India came after convincing first-up defeats to India and South Africa to leave them 0-2.

“Something will hit the fan. It can’t all go this well,” joked Head, the hero of Australia’s 50-over triumph over India in Ahmedabad last year. “We’re playing well. Today was an important game … I think this group is still trying to work towards hitting our straps.

“The mindset is we’re not winning at this stage, we want to do the right things and start playing well, and get yourself in that Super Eights and make sure we hit our straps at the right time, which is a little bit what we learnt in that one-day World Cup.

“Things didn’t go our way at the start and we were a bit slow, but we hit our straps, so let’s hope for the same.”

Australia are top of Group B and hold a healthy net run-rate advantage over their competitors. It counts for little though given seedings are pre-determined; England, or whichever team qualifies instead of them, goes through as the top seed regardless of the standings.

In theory, that opens the door for Mitch Marsh’s men to push the limits of what’s possible – particularly during the six-over Powerplay when Head and opening partner David Warner have a license to attack even if it increases the risk of early wickets.

Batting was its best early in both innings of Australia’s match against England on a barren Kensington Oval surface that got harder to score on as each innings progressed.

They are the type of conditions that could be replicated for their final two group-stage games at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium against the Namibians on Tuesday evening (Wednesday morning AEST) and in St Lucia against tournament surprise packets, Scotland, later in the week.

Warner (bowled by Moeen Ali) and Head (bowled by Archer) were dismissed within five balls of each other against England, but the damage had been done.

“It feels like the wickets (dictate) you’re going to have to try and take some chances at the top,” said Head.

“I came off (against England) thinking if we can get 10 or 15 more runs in that over off ‘Jof’ and I can really put him under pressure leading into (overs) 7-10, even if I was a chance to be a high percentage of losing a wicket, we probably take 2-(74) off the Powerplay.

“Then (we are) off to a really good start. I felt like the difference between 15-20 runs and a wicket at that stage … we’ll take the runs.

“You weigh that up, obviously you’re not trying to get out. Felt like a good option, but felt like Davey and I got off to a really, really good start which then set the platform for the guys in the middle and then the guys at the end.”

While fresh off an IPL campaign where he was one of the tournament’s leading batters, Head conceded he needed some fine tuning after arriving in the Caribbean.

The 30-year-old, after being caught at mid-off for 12 in the tournament opener against Oman, was the only member of the playing XI to front up at a university oval for their allocated training slot the following morning.

The lack of first-choice players was understandable given the session began around nine hours after the almost four-hour long match against Oman finished at the ungodly hour of 12.15am. 

Head had missed out on a hit when Australia’s training session at the Kensington Oval on the eve of their tournament opener was rained off.

“I just wanted to do some prep, try to do my work early knowing the tour gets long and I’m going to have some rest days coming up,” said Head when asked about the session that saw him repeat a series of front-foot driving drills.

“Struck the ball nicely today and felt like I’ve got myself into the tournament a little bit. Feeling a bit more with it. I know later in the tournament I’ll have a few more rest days … so use this time now in the start-up to make sure I hit my straps on time.”

2024 ICC Men’s T20 World Cup

Australia’s squad: Mitch Marsh (c), Ashton Agar, Pat Cummins, Tim David, Nathan Ellis, Cameron Green, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Josh Inglis, Glenn Maxwell, Mitchell Starc, Marcus Stoinis, Matthew Wade, David Warner, Adam Zampa

Australia’s Group B fixtures

June 6: Beat Oman by 39 runs

June 9: Beat England by 36 runs

June 12: v Namibia, Sir Vivian Richards Stadium, Antigua, 10.30am AEST

June 16: v Scotland, Daren Sammy Stadium, St Lucia, 10.30am AEST

Super Eights, finals to follow if Australia qualify

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