Buoyed by their come-from-behind one-day series triumph in India, skipper Aaron Finch believes resurgent Australia have the blueprint in place to win the upcoming World Cup.
Despite missing banned batsmen Steve Smith and David Warner, Australia bounced back from a 0-2 deficit to clinch the series with a comfortable 35-run win in the final ODI in New Delhi on Wednesday.
It was Australia’s first ODI series win in India since 2009, when a Ricky Ponting-led side won a seven-match series 4-2, and follows humbling home Test and ODI series defeats against the same opposition.
‘It’s unbelievable, the resilience and fight that we showed,’ Finch said. ‘Being down 2-0 it would have been easy to roll over. Those small moments in the game, to just let them drift away and India win the series.
‘But the fight that we showed, we’ve had our backs against the wall for quite a while now so I’m really proud of the group.’
Australian cricket has suffered a torrid year since Smith, Warner and Cameron Bancroft were banned for ball-tampering during a Test last March, an incident that prompted a national outcry.
Australia’s Test series defeat in December to January was their first to India on home soil, and they also went down 2-1 to the visitors in a three-match ODI series.
‘People have written us off for quite a while now,’ said Finch.
‘We always knew that the plans and the style that we wanted to play are all there (and) can win us the World Cup,’ he added.
Opener Usman Khawaja’s second century of the series guided Australia to 272 for nine on Wednesday, a total their bowlers defended by dismissing India for 237. The left-handed batsman accumulated 383 runs in the five ODI games to top the series run chart ahead of India skipper Virat Kohli.
Khawaja, who was named man of the series, said it was a sweet revenge after the home ODIs defeat to India early this year.
‘It’s huge. Just winning a series in India is huge. It’s a tough place to come and play cricket, against a very good side,’ Khawaja said.
‘They beat us in Australia, so to come back from those first couple of losses and win three in a row to win the series is a great feeling.’
Adam Zampa took three wickets to lead Australia’s bowling at Delhi’s Feroz Shah Kotla ground. Pacemen Pat Cummins, Jhye Richardson and Marcus Stoinis also claimed two each.
Ashley Turner, who made his ODI debut in the opening match of the series, hit a match-winning blitz of 84 not out in the fourth game to make a case for the World Cup squad.
Coach Justin Langer said he was ‘incredibly proud’ of a team who also swept the two-match Twenty20 series.
‘It is going to be tough to pick the World Cup squad. It has been an unbelievable ride since India arrived in Australia,’ Langer said.
‘I think Jhye Richardson and Pat Cummins are forming a great partnership, they can also contribute with the bat. Usman Khawaja also has been fantastic, having not played much of white-ball cricket, in the last 12 months.’
The 12-month bans handed down to Smith and Warner by Cricket Australia for their role in the Cape Town ball-tampering incident end on March 28 and the duo are expected to play in the Indian Premier League (IPL) before the World Cup starting May 30.
Australia now head to the UAE to play Pakistan in a five-match series starting March 22 before the 50-over World Cup begins in late May in England and Wales.