Australia had gone into the last men’s T20 World Cup on home soil as one of the favourites having been, perhaps, somewhat surprise winners of the previous event in 2021. But they fluffed their lines, soundly beaten in the first game by New Zealand and never really got going.
Even now the focus is on the build-up to the ODI World Cup next month. Partly due to that, with all-format names rested, as well as injuries and a retirement, this Australia T20 side in Durban has a very different look to that T20 World Cup: only three players faced Afghanistan and South Africa.
It was set up on the field when Australia pulled back Temba Bavuma’s rapid start by claimed four wickets in the powerplay. Abbott, seemingly forever a cricketer fighting for the opportunities his talent deserves, removed Bavuma and a swinging full toss from Behrendorff trapped Rassie van der Dussen.
Then over to Ellis who pinned Reeza Hendricks lbw and found the edge of Dewald Brevis first ball in a double-wicket maiden. He would strike again in the closing overs as he continued an outstanding start to his T20I career: after seven matches he has 18 wickets at 9.11 with an economy rate of 6.30.
The combined figures of Ellis and Abbott were 8-1-47-6. There is every chance that only one of then makes the ODI World Cup 15 which will be named next week.
“It’s awesome bowling alongside Nathan,” Abbott said. “I’ve got a lot of respect for him. Where he’s been really successful in the Big Bash for Hobart [Hurricanes], it’s not an easy place to bowl and defend [at Bellerive Oval], it’s quite a nice batting wicket, so think it’s no surprise he’s come into the international side and performed the way that he has. Think his numbers speak for themselves.
“Whenever he’s got something to say with the captain, I always make sure I’m listening and more often than not he goes and executes really well. Typically, we see that when we’ve got to be defensive at the backend with the death bowling, but he showed that tonight in his first over, presenting the seam and hitting the top of the stumps.”
The consensus at midway was that South Africa’s 164 was competitive – “The pitch tonight suited the bowlers,” Abbott said – but it was soon put into a different light by Australia’s top order.
Short put on a full display of the power that made him last season’s BBL player of the tournament including a couple of huge strikes over the leg side.
“We’ve seen that for a little while now from Matt Short and I’m not surprised he’s doing it at international level,” Abbott said. “There doesn’t seem to be too many weaknesses in his game at the moment and I’m really chuffed for him; second game, scoring fifty striking at 200, he’s a very talented player.”