Australia vice-captain Pat Cummins cited India great MS Dhoni as a role model after a failure to finish off a chase cost his side dear during a dramatic loss to arch-rivals England in their Twenty20 series opener.
Australia, in their first competitive match for nearly six months because of the coronavirus, were 124-1 chasing a target of 163 at Southampton on Friday.
Yet needing 39 off 35 balls with nine wickets remaining Australia, the world’s top-ranked T20 side, still managed to lose a last-ball thriller by two runs.
Australia’s team is full of players who are top-order batsmen in the domestic Big Bash League Twenty20 competition.
But with captain Aaron Finch, David Warner and star batsman Steve Smith seemingly immovable at the head of the order, fast bowler Cummins said Australia needed to find a middle-order finisher ahead of next year’s T20 World Cup in India.
This was just Australia’s second defeat in 12 Twenty20 internationals but was similar in manner to their loss chasing against South Africa in February, when the Proteas defended a target of 159 at Port Elizabeth.
“We should be winning just about every game when we are in that position,” Cummins told a conference call on Saturday. “I thought for 80 or 90 percent of the game (on Friday) we played really well and we were on top.
“It was probably just the last third of the batting innings, we let it slip with a few wickets.
“It is a shame and something we have to try and get better at, it has happened a few times when we are in that position.”
Warner (58) and Finch (46) put on 98 for the first wicket But both openers fell to fast bowler Jofra Archer, with Smith’s dismissal by Adil Rashid, in an over that also saw the leg-spinner remove Glenn Maxwell, initiating a slump that saw Australia lose four wickets for nine runs in 14 balls.
A target off 19 of 12 balls proved too much for the likes of Marcus Stoinis in his first international match since last year’s 50-over World Cup semi-final defeat by eventual champions England.
“They’re all the best players (batsmen) when they go back to playing domestic competitions,” said Cummins. “You could argue that middle-order role is one of the hardest in any cricket team.
“Someone like M. S. Dhoni, he was one of the best in the world because he played 300-400 ODI games. You saw during this week’s practice games we gave a lot of guys a go. We know it’s not going to happen overnight.
“That’s been a common theme that the selectors and Finchy have spoken about.”
Cummins, however, praised England pacemen Chris Jordan and Tom Curran for he eay they held their nerve in the last two overs.
“TC and CJ are two of the best death bowlers in the world,” he said. “They nailed their skills under pressure and certainly didn’t make it easy for us.”
Cummins also tried to put the result in context by saying defeat, while “disappointing”, was not as painful as losing an Ashes Test.
He also acknowledged how thankful Australia were to be in action at all amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We love playing against England and it is even better when we win, but first of all it is great to be over here and playing. We are really grateful for the opportunity.
“It is the first of three, so the series is still alive,” he added ahead of Sunday’s second match.
Virus restrictions mean all international cricket fixtures in England this season are being played behind closed doors.
“I don’t think it made any difference to the performance but for sure it was strange,” said Cummins of the absence of any crowd taunts. “It is certainly different being over here in England and not hearing some of the songs.”