Australian white-ball captain Aaron Finch has unveiled the starting XI for Sunday’s first ODI against Zimbabwe, confirming that Marnus Labuschagne has been dropped for the season opener in Townsville.
The summer of cricket gets underway at Riverway Stadium this weekend, and Australia will field a near full-strength side for the historic one-day series against Zimbabwe.
Steve Smith, David Warner and Mitchell Starc will all feature in the three-match series in northern Queensland, while Test captain Pat Cummins has been rested.
Watch Australia v Zimbabwe. Every ODI Live & Exclusive to Fox Sports on Kayo. New to Kayo? Start your free trial now >
But speaking to reporters in Townsville, Finch revealed there was no room for Labuschagne in the starting XI, which is dominated by all-rounders.
Marcus Stoinis, Mitchell Marsh and Cameron Green have all been selected for the first ODI, giving Australia a plethora of bowling options.
“We’re just going with an allrounder-heavy side,” Finch explained.
“Two quicks plus Zampa, and Cameron Green as the fourth genuine bowler. And then using Marsh, Stoinis, Maxwell as our fifth bowler effectively.
“It’s a way of lengthening our batting, and I think it’s important we keep trying to juggle the structure of the team around a little bit over the next little while.
“We don’t want to get pigeonholed into playing in one particular structure of team.”
Labuschagne will effectively be replaced by Smith, who missed the second half of the ODI series against Sri Lanka with a quad injury.
Speaking to News Corp this week, Labuschagne rejected the notion he and Smith are fighting for the same spot in the starting XI ahead of next year’s World Cup in India.
“Obviously Steve has had a few injuries in the past few months so we haven’t had the opportunity to actually bat together in that middle order too much,” he said.
“It’s certainly one where I think if you look at us batting in the middle, we’ve got chemistry.
“We play really well off each other and we’re able to play that high intensity game.
“It probably doesn’t look the same as if you’ve got a big hitter in who might be going at 10 through the middle … but with Steve and I having a bit more of that touch type game I think it’s really effective through the middle and hopefully we can have more opportunities in trying to grow that middle-order position together.”
Labuschagne has scored 677 runs in 20 knocks since making his ODI debut in January 2020, including an emotional century against South Africa in Potchefstroom a couple of months later.
But the 28-year-old’s form in the 50-over format has dipped since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, averaging 26.57 with the bat in his last 14 ODIs.
Labuschagne struggled during Australia’s recent tour of Sri Lanka, scoring 116 runs in five matches with a personal best of 31 in Colombo.
But the Queenslander has previously found success at Riverway Stadium, averaging 84.25 across five knocks at the Townsville venue.
“The ground’s great. I don’t think I’ve lost here yet, I’ve got three wins from three games,” Labuschagne told reporters on Friday.
“We (Queensland) played here last year and the track was quite good.
“We ended up beating Tasmania in both the one-dayer and Shield game.
“It did a little bit early but it was actually really good for the spinners … that was for Shield cricket so I think this wicket will be slightly flatter.”
The series opener against Zimbabwe will mark Australia’s first ODI on home soil since December 2020, more than 600 days ago.
Australian XI for first ODI vs Zimbabwe
Aaron Finch (c), David Warner, Steve Smith, Alex Carey (wk), Marcus Stoinis, Mitchell Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Cameron Green, Mitchell Starc, Adam Zampa, Josh Hazlewood