Brutal six-day twist for Aussies’ best; hint in Warner replacement race: Winners and losers

Australia has named a full-strength squad for this month’s T20 tour of New Zealand, a rare luxury during an era in which workload management and player rotation have become the norm.

Ahead of this year’s T20 World Cup in the United States and West Indies, Australia will finetune its first-choice starting XI with three matches across the Tasman Sea, the first of which gets underway on February 21.

The identity of Aaron Finch’s permanent replacement at the top of the order remains a mystery, with at least three players fighting over the vacancy.

WINNERS

Matthew Short

The Victorian has been rewarded for his stellar form in the Big Bash League, called up for the New Zealand tour as one of the candidates to partner veteran opener David Warner at the top of the order.

Short has been named Player of the BBL in two consecutive seasons, smacking 541 runs at 60.11 for the Adelaide Strikers this summer.

He’s seemingly in a three-way battle with Steve Smith and Travis Head for the vacant opening position, although Mitchell Marsh could also be an option.

Nathan Ellis

Ellis has been selected as the reserve pace bowler in the T20 squad, indicating he’s high up the pecking order among Australia’s bowling stocks.

The crafty seamer boasts superb numbers in the 20-over format, taking 22 wickets at 17.31 in 12 appearances for Australia.

He might not crack into Australia’s first-choice starting XI, but he’s a more than handy substitute should one of the veteran quicks break down.

Australia's Nathan Ellis. Photo by PHILL MAGAKOE / AFP
Australia’s Nathan Ellis. Photo by PHILL MAGAKOE / AFPSource: AFP

Josh Inglis

Following his breakout century against India in November, Inglis has emerged as the leading candidate to replace Matthew Wade as Australia’s next T20 wicketkeeper.

Having already cemented his place in the national ODI side, the West Australian looks poised to accompany Wade at this year’s T20 World Cup as the reserve gloveman.

Although he may not break into the first-choice starting XI as a specialist batter, national selectors know he’s capable of batting anywhere in the top seven if required.

Steve Smith

Smith will get another opportunity to push his case for the opening duties in New Zealand, but he’ll have plenty of competition.

The New South Welshman opened the batting twice during the recent T20 tour of India, mustering scores of 52 (41) and 19 (16).

His talent is undeniable, but national selectors may be tempted to call upon a more destructive batter to open in this year’s T20 World Cup.

Steve Smith of Australia. Photo by Saeed KHAN / AFP
Steve Smith of Australia. Photo by Saeed KHAN / AFPSource: AFP

Mitchell Marsh

Marsh’s selection for the T20 squad was never in doubt, but Tuesday’s announcement was a clear indication he’s the leading candidate to become Australia’s next captain in the game’s shortest format.

The Allan Border Medallist previously led Australia during last year’s white-ball tour of South Africa, but this month’s New Zealand series marks the first time he has captained the national side with Pat Cummins also in the squad.

Australia has not formally announced a replacement following Aaron Finch’s retirement, but Marsh looks set to take the reins.

LOSERS

Spencer Johnson

Following another stellar Big Bash League campaign with the Brisbane Heat, Johnson was unlucky to miss selection for the T20 tour of New Zealand.

The left-armer, who helped the Heat clinch its second BBL title last month, has been named as Nathan Ellis’ injury reserve for the three-match campaign.

Johnson, who was snapped up for $1.78 million in last year’s Indian Premier League Auction, remains the long-term replacement for Mitchell Starc when the time comes.

The Heat, somewhat remarkably given their success, don’t have a single player in the squad.

Johnson is, however, clearly still front of mind with the speedster set to play in this month’s T20 series against the West Indies as Ellis continues his recovery.

There’s little doubt that he’s getting awfully close to cracking the squad full time.

Australia's Spencer Johnson stretches during a practice session. Photo by Arun SANKAR / AFP
Australia’s Spencer Johnson stretches during a practice session. Photo by Arun SANKAR / AFPSource: AFP

Jason Behrendorff

Last week, Behrendorff was crowned Australia’s men’s T20I Player of the Year at the Australian Cricket Awards ceremony in Melbourne. Less than six days later, he’s been dropped.

The West Australian was nothing short of spectacular with the ball during last year’s T20 tour of India, conceding just 6.69 runs per over in a high-scoring series.

However, the left-armer has been forced to make way for Mitchell Starc’s return, with his T20 World Cup dream all but over, barring injury.

Sean Abbott

Abbott has been exceptional in canary yellow over the past 12 months, but he hasn’t done enough to cement a spot in Australia’s 15-player squad for the T20 tour of New Zealand.

The World Cup champion, who starred with bat and ball during Sunday’s victory over the West Indies in Sydney, may feel relieved he doesn’t have to spend another tour carrying the drinks.

Abbott and Behrendorff have been named as standby players for the New Zealand series.

Sean Abbott of Australia. Photo by Matt King/Getty Images
Sean Abbott of Australia. Photo by Matt King/Getty ImagesSource: Getty Images

Ashton Agar

Agar boasts superb T20I numbers, accumulating 48 wickets at 22.35 with a career-best of 6-30, achieved during Australia’s previous white-ball tour of New Zealand.

However, the West Australian remains behind premier spinner Adam Zampa in the pecking order, with Matt Short’s part-time spin seemingly enough for national selectors not to bother flying over a second strike tweaker.

Cameron Green

Just over 14 months ago, national selectors were desperate to squeeze Green into Australia’s T20 World Cup squad, but the tall all-rounder has missed out on the upcoming New Zealand campaign.

Marcus Stoinis remains the nation’s premier T20 all-rounder, while Green will benefit from some additional time playing Sheffield Shield cricket before the Test series against New Zealand gets underway on February 29.

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