Kanishkaa Balachandran in Abu Dhabi, courtesy of ESPNcricinfo
The last ten days, ever since they left home for Sri Lanka and then the UAE, have been difficult for the Australian Under-19 team. The three-time World Cup winners failed to win any of their four games since the start of February, losing 3-0 to Sri Lanka U-19s and conceding their opening warm-up game against Zimbabwe in Abu Dhabi.
Despite the less than ideal build-up to the tournament, set to get underway in three days’ time, Australia’s team manager Greg Chappell said the early hiccups may not be the worst thing to happen to the team. He felt it would help identify weaknesses and hopefully correct them by the time the results matter.
Australia had failed to last their full 50 overs after opting to bat, and were bundled out for 195 at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium Nursery 1. Their bowlers made Zimbabwe sweat in pursuit of a modest target but ultimately lost the game by three wickets.
“In Sri Lanka and in this game, we did not just quite finish things off. Something like 20 odd extras while bowling (proved costly), and we would have made probably 20 or 30 more runs while batting,” Chappell said. “But, the only way you learn is to make mistakes and hopefully get better. We have made a few mistakes. That’s a good sign and we need to learn from it.”
Australia were let down by their batting in Sri Lanka, with scores of 167, 137 and 202, once again being unable to bat out the full innings in any of the matches. Their bowlers ran Sri Lanka close in the third game, but the hosts scraped home by two wickets in the final over. Chappell said the matches so far indicated that there was plenty of room for improvement in all three departments.
“We learned a lot from it (the Sri Lanka series). They bowled spin pretty well in their conditions. But, again what we learned is that we have to do the basics right,” he said. “We need to build partnerships, catch everything and we need to bowl a little bit better than we have done so far. We have given too many runs, missed too many catches and that has hurt us.”
Chappell said that the team’s biggest weakness was spin. Against Zimbabwe, they lost six wickets to the spinners, with the legspinner Deven Bell returning with the best figures of 3 for 38. “We have struggled a little bit with spin bowling, both batting and bowling it. It is not been our great strength, has never been and probably will never be.
“But, we have got to back our strengths here and back the group as a whole. We have a pretty solid group with some good leadership and we rely on them getting through themselves from where the coaches won’t have much of a say.”
Australia play their second practice game on Wednesday in Dubai against Pakistan. They are in Group B along with Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Namibia.
Kanishkaa Balachandran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo