Australia have been the most consistent team in the second edition of the World Test Championship (WTC). They are set to face a resurgent Indian team in the final starting from June 7 at the Oval in London. The team, led by Pat Cummins, was exceptional in the ongoing cycle of the event after missing out on the summit clash last time around only due to losing one point for slow over-rate. They topped the points table in the 2021/23 WTC.
Overall, Australia played 19 Test matches in this cycle and ended up winning 11 of them while losing 3. Five of their games ended in a draw. Their overall PCT (points won per contested) of 66.67 helped them finish at the top of the points table.
Cricket Australia (CA) had announced a 17-member Australia squad for World Test Championship final as well as the Ashes 2023 well in advance and named a 15-man team for the ICC final recently.
Australia World Test Championship squad
Marcus Harris, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Steve Smith, David Warner, Marnus Labuschagne, Cameron Green, Alex Carey, Josh Inglis, Pat Cummins (C), Scott Boland, Josh Hazlewood, Nathan Lyon, Todd Murphy, Mitchell Starc
Standby Players for Australia WTC Squad
Matt Renshaw, Mitchell Marsh
Detailed Analysis of the Australia Test squad for the 2023 WTC Final
Four out of the selected 17 players (including standbys) were involved in the Indian Premier League (IPL) that concluded only nine days before the WTC Final.
David Warner and Mitchell Marsh played for Delhi Captials, Josh Hazlewood featured for Royal Challengers Bangalore while Cameron Green turned out for five-time champions Mumbai Indians. Hazlewood was injured and recovering for most parts of the season and played only three matches. He was deemed fit for the WTC final after tests were conducted by Cricket Australia following his return to Australia midway through the IPL.
In terms of the probable playing XI for Australia in the WTC final, several players are almost certain to be included. The bowling attack, consisting of Mitchell Starc, captain Pat Cummins, Nathan Lyon, and either Josh Hazlewood (certainty if fit) or Scott Boland, appears to be set. Additionally, Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne are expected to contribute with their spin bowling if necessary. Nathan Lyon is expected to lead the spin charge, with Todd Murphy, who made a grand debut in India this year, also in the ranks. However, whether Murphy plays will depend on the conditions on offer.
In the forthcoming WTC final, Boland, known for his impressive performances throughout his career, will have a golden opportunity to showcase his skills once again, if he is presented with an opportunity. Boland has already taken 28 wickets in just seven Test matches, averaging an impressive 13.42. His record includes a four-wicket haul and a five-wicket haul.
Although Boland faced a challenging match in Nagpur, India earlier this year, where he bowled 17 wicketless overs for 34 runs, he received praise for maintaining tight lines and keeping the batsmen in check. Unfortunately, Australia's loss by an innings and 132 runs overshadowed his performance.
This bowling quartet has consistently delivered for Australia throughout the WTC cycle and will be relied upon once again. However, the main concern lies with the form of David Warner, who has expressed his desire to continue playing until the Sydney Test against Pakistan next year. Although Australia coach Andrew McDonald has indicated that Warner will feature in the WTC final, the left-hander will face significant pressure, especially after his underwhelming performance in the two Test matches in India followed by an indifferent IPL.
Currently, Marcus Harris will have to wait for his chance despite his impressive run-scoring in the Sheffield Shield this season. Opening alongside Warner will be Usman Khawaja, who has made a rousing comeback and secured his place. Khawaja thrives in challenging conditions and could pose a serious threat to India in the summit clash of the WTC.
Australia's WTC squad features two key players in the middle order, Marnus Labuschagne and Steve Smith, whose performances will play a crucial role. Although both players faced difficulties on the tour of India a few months ago, they excelled in England in 2019 during the Ashes. Smith amassed an impressive 774 runs in just seven innings, averaging 110.57, while Labuschagne impressed with 353 runs in seven outings during his debut series. Their contributions will be vital if Australia is to win the World Test Championship. Both also have a tremendous record against India.
Travis Head, known for his attacking cricket, will also be an important asset who can unsettle the Indian bowlers.
Cameron Green, a rising star, showcased his talent during a successful IPL stint with the Mumbai Indians and will be key in the balance of the side, as he can bowl seam-up as well. Alex Carey will handle the wicketkeeping duties, with Josh Inglis serving as the backup option, likely coming into play only if Carey gets injured.
Australia have undeniably assembled an exceptional squad for their quest to win the World Test Championship this time. Key players like Smith, Starc and Cummins made the decision to withdraw from the lucrative Indian Premier League even before the auction took place, prioritizing their freshness and fitness for the WTC final and, of course, the Ashes.
Although Australia's track record at The Oval, the venue for the WTC final, may not be remarkable, the team led by Pat Cummins believes in their ability to go all the way this time. However, it won't be a walk in the park, as India has been the dominant force in Test cricket over the past four years or so.
Possible Australia WTC squad XI:
David Warner, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith, Travis Head, Cameron Green, Alex Carey (WK), Pat Cummins (C), Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood/Scott Boland