When Australia lost the first One-Day International of their home series against South Africa in November 2018, an infamous record was set by arguably the greatest country to play 50-over cricket. Australia had slumped to their seventh consecutive defeat in the format — the first time that had happened in cricket history. In the 22 ODIs including that match, Australia had won just two matches. That run included a disappointing Champions Trophy campaign in 2017. It was no surprise that 2018 turned out to be Australia’s worst ever calendar year in ODIs in terms of their win-loss ratio.
Given the World Cup was around the corner, not many gave Australia a chance to defend their title, especially after the new calendar year started with another series defeat at home, at the hands of Virat Kohli and Co.
That extraordinary losing streak now seems to be firmly in the past for the men in yellow as the World Cup approaches.
Australia's worst calendar year record in ODIs
|Year||Matches||Win / Loss / Tie||W/L|
Fast forward to April 2019, when no more ODIs are left to play for Australia before the World Cup, Aaron Finch and Co beat Pakistan by 20 runs in the fifth and final One-Day International in Dubai on Sunday, sweeping the series 5-0.
Australia rode on a solid 98 by Usman Khawaja and a brisk 33-ball 70 by Glenn Maxwell to post 327/7 in 50 overs before Pakistan managed 307/7 despite Haris Sohail’s 130.
This was Australia’s eighth consecutive ODI win after winning the last three matches in a 3-2 series win in India. That triumph against Kohli’s men in their own backyard signalled a revival of sorts for the reigning World Champions, one that has been reiterated with their brilliant performances in the Middle East.
Written off after a torrid 15 months which saw Australia win just three of 18 ODIs, Finch led the 2015 World Cup winners to Australia’s first series win in India since 2009.
They then romped to a 5-0 rout of a depleted Pakistan who rested six top players for the series played in the United Arab Emirates, including regular captain Sarfraz Ahmed, ahead of the World Cup which begins on May 30.
Pakistan’s strength of squad notwithstanding, going by the win-loss ratio parameter, 2019 is on track to be one of Australia’s best years in recent times. At nine wins and four losses, this is now the fourth best year in the last decade for Australia.
Australia's best W/L ratios since 2009
|Year||Matches||Win / Loss / No-result||W/L ratio|
Australia’s red-hot form has also been without arguably their best ODI players in the squad with Steve Smith, David Warner, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood all missing out for various reasons. The run has been built on the back of a rock-solid opening partnership between skipper Aaron Finch and Usman Khawaja.
Shaun Marsh, Peter Handscomb and Glenn Maxwell have also been in fine touch with the bat, leaving difficult decisions as to where Warner and Smith will fit back in after serving their one-year bans for their part in a ball-tampering scandal.
The bombastic Warner seems a certain starter for their World Cup opener against Afghanistan in Bristol on June 1 after his blistering return to the Indian Premier League. He bludgeoned a century in 55 balls on Sunday after smashing 85 and 69 in his first two outings for Sunrisers Hyderabad.
Former captain Smith, who has scored more modestly with 20 and 28 for the Rajasthan Royals so far, is also expected to be recalled by Australia.
Their returns will only make Australia a more formidable outfit and the title defence does not seem as improbable now as it did a few months back.
(With AFP inputs)