Australia’s emerging Twenty20 talent D’Arcy Short has declared he wants to keep the opening spot alongside David Warner, and the recent middle-order IPL record of the vastly more experienced Aaron Finch suggests he may well be able to do so.
Short has shown plenty of promise in all three of his appearances so far, following on from an explosive Big Bash League for Hobart Hurricanes – where he set a new record for the most runs ever scored in a single edition of the tournament – that vaulted him into the team in the first place. To a degree his role has been affected by the sheer effectiveness of Australia’s bowling attack in restricting England and New Zealand to low totals, but after Saturday’s innings, Short was singled out for praise by the assistant coach Ricky Ponting for his composure – the moment captured by television cameras.
“He knows so much about the game, the ins and outs of it, and he was just going through saying it was a good knock and a composed knock, especially at the start where I probably could have tried to blast my way out of it,” Short said of Ponting. “I worked through it and he was just congratulating me on that one.
“Definitely [want to open], I think I’m suited there and that’s where I like to bat, and hopefully I can stay there. I didn’t know what to expect until a couple of days ago, just chatting to other guys. I think they wanted to keep me opening because I’d done so well in the Big Bash and throwing me down the order might change it a little bit. Definitely a little bit surprised considering how well he [Finch] has done at the top.”
“I didn’t feel like I could hit a ball, especially at the start. But I knew that if we didn’t lose wickets and I stayed in with whoever was in and scoring runs then we’d get the total easily. I had to work hard in terms of trying to get my runs early, they bowled well at the start and I had to work a little bit harder. I just tried to keep at a run a ball basically and then go from there.”
Before the triangular series, the stand-in leader Warner had spoken about how the preponderance of openers in the Australian squad – Short, Finch, Chris Lynn and Alex Carey have all typically opened for their teams in addition to the captain – needed to be addressed with a measure of flexibility. The combination of Finch’s injury making room for Short and his decent record as a middle-order batsman in the IPL seems to have made up Warner’s mind.
Finch has played 36 of his 208 T20 matches as a middle-order batsman, most recently doing the job for Gujarat Lions in the IPL in 17 matches over the past two editions of the tournament. During that time he has made 448 runs at 32 with a strike rate of 150.33, as against career figures of 34.26 and 139.02, and on Saturday night put an explanation mark on Australia’s victory with a pair of mighty sixes after coming in at the fall of the third wicket.
At the same time, the team hierarchy will also have reasoned that Short is better off starting against speed than spin, given a wide disparity in his strike rates when given pace on the ball to work with. While agreeing it was something he needed to work on, Short said he was tired of hearing about it – a pair of clean hits worth four and six from Liam Dawson’s second over during the MCG chase were a move in the right direction at any rate.
“I went at [Liam] Dawson because I had a look at his first over and felt like I could take him down in the second over and it worked in my favour in the end,” Short said. “I go at a run a ball against spin, I don’t see what the problem is there. I’ll obviously keep trying to work on it and to get my strike rate up against them a bit more would be good, but I’m happy with where it’s at at the moment. A little bit [sick of it] but I can’t do anything about it, that’s people’s opinion.
“I think it’s just about keeping your game plan simple and knowing how you’re going to go about the game. Working on things you need to work on and different areas you want to hit the ball, but I think if you’ve got your game plan set and if you go out with your mindset to do that, then I think you should be right. They’re always going to try different things and you’ve got to negate that, work around it and try to work through it.”
The innings was all the more noteworthy for the fact that the 27-year-old Short admitted to plenty of nerves about playing an international match at the MCG for the first time, reflecting how quickly he has risen through the ranks after taking some time to mature as a player. He has been aided by an Australian T20 collective functioning impressively under the stand-in leadership of Warner. “A year to two years ago if you asked me was I going to be here I probably would’ve said no,” Short said, “but just being consistent and working hard has got me to where I am now.
“I was a bit more nervous than the first two games, just because its a big stadium at the MCG, but I tried not to think about it too much. All the players playing at the moment are playing with freedom, and I think it shows in our batting, bowling and fielding as well. You’re here to go out and do what you love and show off a little bit and see how you go – play with confidence and go from there.”
One major factor in the composition of this T20 side has been the looming Test tour of South Africa, for which the likes of Steven Smith, Mitchell Marsh, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins have been saved. Short expressed hope that the current group could be kept together for future assignments, but also acknowledged the scheduling issues facing the selectors.
“If we win this tri-series and go through, if we can try and keep it together, that’d be good,” Short said. “I suppose you always put your best team out, and whether we all fit in the best team, that’s up to the selectors. I think it definitely gives you the opportunity to showcase your skills in front of other people on the international stage and you always try to take it with both hands.”