As Australia’s T20 team stumbled their way to a dead rubber win at the Sydney Cricket Ground last night, Matthew Wade’s spot in the first Test at the Adelaide Oval next week was secured.
Australia again failed to properly capitalise on a great start with the bat, then almost fell apart with the ball at the back end, but Wade’s 80 at the top of the order continued his strong run of form to start the summer.
Limited-overs form should never decide a Test team on its own, but the numbers stack up in Wade’s favour, even if his last international summer in the whites was average at best.
Against New Zealand and Pakistan 12 months ago, Wade only managed a single half-century in seven innings. At 32 years of age, that is generally a sign of a career coming to an end, but the former keeper who has reinvented his role has the runs on the board.
Last night’s score followed 58 in the second T20, but more importantly, in his four Sheffield Shield knocks during the tournament-opening in Adelaide, he made three half-centuries.
He played important innings at crucial times for Tasmania and batting in the middle order against a strong Indian team, that may be part of the job description.
While Cameron Green is pushing for a spot and Will Pucovski is also in line for a debut pending how quickly he can recover from his concussion, Australia’s Test team needs someone like Wade.
The Aussies have two positions to work out in the middle order, with Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith and Tim Paine picking themselves at three, four and seven respectively.
Wade can bring experience and form, and as a result, he must be picked.
Again, last night may not be the determining factor, but runs are runs, especially against an international bowling attack. Wade looked in control of his game, ran between the wickets well, and never once allowed himself to get bogged down like Steve Smith or Aaron Finch could at times.
While Wade was the shining light in the win, their woes in the shortest form of the game continued, and with a pair of World Cups on the horizon, it could be an embarrassing 24 months unless the men from Down Under work out how to play this format consistently.
Australia have never come to grips with winning T20 games and a large chunk of that would appear to be team selection.
They should have won this series against India. At home, not having to deal with the quarantine the tourists dealt with, and in difficult conditions, they could have used this to build some momentum.
But when things get bogged down and with Glenn Maxwell more interested in proving a point about reverse sweeping than he was actually putting the ball into the grandstand, victories can’t be expected.
Sure, it was a dead rubber and Australia won, but they should have scored more, and they struggled to bowl the 20 overs with any real consistency.
David Warner and Pat Cummins may have missed this series and they are about as close to irreplaceable as it gets, but it’s unacceptable to put losing a series at home down to the loss of two players.
As we move towards the aforementioned World Cups, Australia must bite the bullet on changes and the biggest among them is Steve Smith.
His 24 at a run a ball last night was great… for ODI or Test cricket. But in T20, it was slow and dug his team a hole. Wade and Maxwell did their utmost to get them out of it and while the end score was enough to win, it should have been more – as was the feeling in both Games 1 and 2.
Then there is the middle order, which feels disjointed and like a revolving door, with Moises Henriques, Daniel Sams and Sean Abbott in the side last night, but none looking like they’ll hold a spot down long-term.
The only real bright spot with the ball this series has been Mitch Swepson, who picked up three wickets last night and has bowled economically all the way through in some high-scoring games.
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While he is now 27, he is experienced in the shortest form of the game and is a player Australia can look to build around for the next two years.
But, for now, limited-overs cricket will go on the back burner. The SCG lights up for a day-night tour game on Friday, which will be critical to solving the final spots in the Australian team for the first Test. Then, it’s on to Adelaide.
Fans can only hope Matthew Wade is in the line-up next Thursday at 3pm.