Australia’s attention turned to spin in their build-up to the Men’s World Cup, with Adam Zampa and Nathan Lyon the focus of the second training session in London. While Australia’s bowling strength in the 50-over format has undoubtedly been pace in the post-Shane Warne era, legspinner Zampa believes spin will play a key role in their upcoming campaign and revealed how he and Lyon – who were both part of Australia’s recent eight-game undefeated streak against India and Pakistan – have worked closely on their partnership.
“I think it was a few months ago where we actually spoke to each other and said, ‘I reckon we can play a huge role coming up in the World Cup together so let’s do everything we can to make sure we’re both there’,” Zampa said. “So we’ve communicated really well over the last few months. We speak a lot in the nets, we speak a lot in the field, just about whatever – anything – spin bowling, field settings or how the ball’s going to come out. Just anything. So we communicate a lot and really well.”
Zampa, who averages 35.45 at a strike rate of 38.00, has been the first-choice spinner for Australia in ODIs after a string of options were used with varying success while Lyon, who came to prominence in T20 cricket after a breakout season with South Australia, has been preferred in Test cricket and has often been overlooked in white-ball formats. But while Australia rarely opt for two spinners outside the subcontinent, Zampa believes that could change in England.
“It’s definitely going to play a role with the smaller grounds,” Zampa said. “I think the way we have been playing lately, we’ve been loading up a little bit towards the back end, so to have those wickets in hand is really important. So I guess stopping the [opposition] spinners from getting wickets in the middle overs is really important and obviously vice versa for us, for me and Nath to bowl well.
“I love playing with Nath. We play two different roles. He’s so accurate, beautiful offspinner. Bowls to his field really well, bowls really tight, and it means I can attack from the other end. So I really, really like bowling with ‘Gaz’. I think it’s going to play a huge role for us sometime throughout the World Cup. I don’t know if it will be every game but I definitely see us playing a huge role together.”
Zampa was overlooked for Australia’s ODI tour of England in 2018, which they lost 5-0, but picked up a contract playing T20 cricket in The Blast for Essex, an experience he hopes to draw from in the coming months.
“I absolutely loved my time there,” he said. “It was really tough and I think the added pressure of being an overseas player, you’ve got to really perform. So I found playing under those conditions and that pressure really good for me. Small ground. Chelmsford is probably the smallest ground in the world if you’ve ever been there, so yeah, that was enjoyable.”
As the role of spin has developed in ODI cricket, so has Australia’s use of spinners. Zampa believes he has more licence to be attacking during the middle overs under captain Aaron Finch, even if it means leaking runs. That’s the kind of confidence he admires in the England camp and he views Adil Rashid as something of a role model.
“Adil Rashid is someone that, you know, I could almost base my career around his,” Zampa said. “He’s been in and out of the team when he was a lot younger, he’s probably a little bit of a different bowler than I am but England have really backed him in. From looking from afar they’ve almost said to him, ‘you’re playing every game for the next couple of years until the World Cup is over.’ So he goes 1 for 80, 3 for 80, he’s a genuine wicket-taker for England and he’s probably had some ups and downs in his career too, but he’s someone I’ve really enjoyed watching bowl and he’s had a lot of success in England.”
Australia’s first World Cup match is against Afghanistan in Bristol, a match that will likely pit Zampa against another player he admires and has observed closely, Rashid Khan. The pair spent time together during the most recent BBL series in a session that Zampa found both informative and humbling.
“I had a bowl with Rash after a [Melbourne] Stars versus [Adelaide] Strikers game this year and I was always intrigued with Rash,” Zampa said. “I was like, ‘I love watching this guy so I’m going to pull him aside and have a bowl with him’ and, to his credit, he spent about 45 minutes with me and at the end of it I was so glad I did that because now I know that I would never ever be able to bowl like Rashid Khan.”
Perhaps not, but Australia will undoubtedly hope that bowling like Adam Zampa is good enough to help them win a World Cup.