Under pressure: Aussie stars playing for World Cup spots
ONLY five ODIs are left before the hopes and dreams of several Australians are either realised or crushed at the World Cup selection table.
Unfortunately for some, the 15-man squad couldn't be named earlier this month, in which big-game performances against India led to what Allan Border described as the nation's "best ever" ODI series win.
For others, the five-match series against Pakistan in the UAE is a sorely needed last chance to prove why they shouldn't be left at home for cricket's showpiece event, starting May 30.
But even a strong showing might not be enough for those in the places of Steve Smith and David Warner, who are largely expected to be picked in the World Cup squad no matter what.
Here, we take a look at who most needs to step up in the UAE to go to the World Cup.
Marsh carved out four centuries within eight ODIs between June and January before suddenly dropping off the pace this month in India.
The 35-year-old missed the first match for the birth of his second child before breaking back into the XI for the following three matches. He posted scores of 16, seven and six, and was dropped for the series-decider.He was the only member of Australia's top six, apart from Glenn Maxwell, to not score a half-century for the tournament, and the only player from the top four to not average more than 30 (9.66).
His rich vein of white-ball form isn't a distant memory yet, but it might be for selectors should he have another poor series.
Justin Langer has hinted Marsh will get another chance in the UAE to push his case.
The Australian captain made positive steps in India in his bid to end his wretched run of white-ball form that started in November. Over the Australian summer, he averaged 13.83 in ODIs and 15.50 in T20Is.
But in five ODIs against India he averaged 31.40, which included a high score of 93 in a series-turning partnership with Usman Khawaja in the do-or-die third match.
Question marks remain over the opener, though, given he failed to pass 40 in every other innings and scored two ducks.
He will be hard to dislodge as a strong team captain, but he still has a long way to go before becoming the Aaron Finch of old again.
USMAN KHAWAJA AND PETER HANDSCOMB
Both players were strong in India - Khawaja was player of the series with 383 runs at 76.60, and Handscomb made 236 at 47.20.
Khawaja was particularly impressive, scoring two centuries and two fifties in the five-match series, while Handscomb also added one ton and a fifty to his name.
Those are numbers that usually warrant selection in any team, but they aren't faced with a normal situation.
Khawaja and Handscomb are currently holding spots in the team that usually belong to David Warner and Steve Smith; two of the world's finest batsmen before they were suspended for 12 months.
They may still be, and are widely expected to be picked in Australia's 15-man squad for the World Cup.
The form of Khawaja and Handscomb has opened up the rare scenario of Smith and Warner being in an Australia squad and not in the XI. If the incumbents put up the same numbers in the UAE that they did in India, then that possibility edges closer towards reality.
THE STAND-IN QUICKS
Injuries to Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc has left the door open to two quicks to press their cases in India and the UAE.
Hazlewood is fighting stress fractures in his back and Starc a pectoral injury, but both are expected to be passed fit for the World Cup.
Given Pat Cummins is one of the best bowlers in the world, it is likely two of Jhye Richardson, Kane Richardson, Nathan Coulter-Nile or Jason Behrendorff will need to make way.
Jhye Richardson was the strongest in India, snaring eight wickets at 21.12 in three matches.
Behrendorff didn't take any in his two matches, but was the most economical quick (5.35) for Australia outside of Cummins (4.64), while Coulter-Nile took three at 32.66. Kane Richardson ultimately missed the tour with a side strain but has since returned to the squad.
Jhye Richardson would appear to be the only one making an undeniable case with the ball, while he has proven to be capable of reliable contributions with the bat.
The latter could also be said about Coulter-Nile who has averaged 19.6 in T20Is and 22 in ODIs since the start of 2018
Behrendorff is Australia's only other left-arm fast option should Starc not pull through, while K.Richardson was the Big Bash League's leading wicket-taker. (24 at 17.70).
Each bowler will likely be given at least two matches in the UAE, like there were in India, to show why they shouldn't miss out on the World Cup.
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