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Spin twins thriving in new Aussie T20 attack

Spin twins Adam Zampa and Ashton Agar sense they’re building a special relationship in Australia’s T20 side that could play a key role in next year’s World Cup.

Australia’s hot recent form in cricket’s shortest format has coincided with national selectors utilising two specialist spinners after years of picking just one slow bowler in their 20-over side.

Between the end of the 2016 World Cup and the start of this summer, Australia had picked two frontline spinners in just five of 28 T20 games, opting instead for a pace-heavy attack as well as the all-round spin talents of players like Glenn Maxwell.

But the union of Agar and Zampa at the start of this season, as well as the returns of premier quicks Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins, has resulted in strong Australian bowling performances against Sri Lanka and Pakistan in recent weeks, with the touring teams yet to pass 150 in five games.

“We’ve proven … in the past five games (that we can play two spinners),” Zampa said on Thursday.

“It makes it easier for Ash and I when we get early wickets, which is what Starcy and Cummins do so well.

“If we can continue to do that, we can almost play two spinners everywhere.

“Especially with Ash (batting) at No.7 … obviously he’s the allrounder in the team and that makes it an even better scenario.

“Obviously we’ve got a goal to be there together at the T20 World Cup at the end of (next) year so the more we help each other, the more chance we’ve got of winning games and being there for that.

“We communicate really well out on the ground. That’s something that we’re really working on. He’s a different bowler to what I am but we are similar in some aspects, so the communication is something that is a big part of our combination.”

Pakistan boast some outstanding players of spin, and their hopes of levelling the Gillette T20 International Series in Perth on Friday could depend on their ability to extract maximum value from the middle overs.

“I think they’ve milked us quite well, a little bit better than what Sri Lanka did,” Zampa said of Pakistan’s approach to Australia’s spin duo.

“But they haven’t taken too many risks, probably due to the fact that we’ve got early wickets and they’re trying to rebuild through the middle.

“They’re obviously really good players. You’ve seen Babar Azam and the way he’s playing at the moment – he’s really tough to bowl to.”

Often regarded as the poor cousin of the international game behind Test and one-day cricket, the T20 game has taken prominence in Australia’s schedule ahead of hosting the World Cup next October.

Zampa says it’s resulted in a shift in focus among the Australian players as well.

“We’re building towards something,” he said. “T20 internationals have always been a little bit frowned upon and don’t really have a space, but at the moment it doesn’t really feel like that because everyone is working towards that T20 World Cup.”

Victory in Perth on Friday would take Australia’s unbeaten streak in T20s to eight matches and represent the first time they’ve gone a calendar year without suffering a defeat in the format.

Gillette T20 INTLs v Pakistan

Pakistan squad: Babar Azam (c), Asif Ali, Fakhar Zaman, Haris Sohail, Iftikhar Ahmed, Imad Wasim, Imam-ul-Haq, Khushdil Shah, Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Hasnain, Mohammad Irfan, Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Musa Khan, Shadab Khan, Usman Qadir.

November 3: First T20I, SCG, No result

November 5: Second T20I, Manuka Oval, Australia won by seven wickets

November 8: Third T20I, Perth Stadium

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