Australia v England ODIs – Men
Despite his electric form with the bat, Australia’s new ODI opener was not counting his chickens ahead of next year’s tournament
Jack Paynter at the MCG
22 November 2022, 11:58 PM AEST
Twelve months is a long time in professional sport, and no one knows that more than Travis Head.
A year out from the most recent 50-over World Cup, in mid-2018, the 28-year-old left-hander was attempting to lock down his place as Australia's ODI opener.
After getting out of the blocks with 128 in a dominant double-century opening stand with David Warner in Adelaide in January 2017, followed by eight half centuries in 24 matches, a run of low scores during a home series in November 2018 saw him dumped from the side.
Warner then returned from suspension following the ball tampering scandal in time for the showpiece event in England in 2019, which Head was not part of.
Four years on and for the South Australian, history seems to be repeating – but this time he's got the understanding of living through a missed World Cup, and the expectations as the next one approaches in India next year.
After peeling off his best one-day international knock in another double-century first-wicket partnership with Warner on Tuesday, Head revealed that experience had taught him "not to chase it".
"It will be what it will be," Head said after pummelling England for 152 off 130 at the MCG, as Australia swept the world’s No.1 ranked ODI side 3-0.
"I have been in that position and watched from the 12 months leading into a World Cup, and missing that was tough because I felt like I was going well and things just didn't fall my way.
"I've (gone) away and played three good years of domestic cricket to get my chance again.
"It's started well but you can't hang your hat on it, (I've) got to stay relaxed and calm and back my ability.
"I've played enough cricket now to know what the expectations are for Australia; I still hold a lot of pride in what I'm doing but I'm a lot more relaxed about things."
Head says he is happy to bat anywhere to play for Australia, but his record shows that opening is without question his best position in the 50-over format, and he's building a formidable combination with Warner at the top.
In 18 ODI innings as opener, Head has 923 runs at 51.27, nine runs better than his next best batting position.
All three of his hundreds in the format have come while opening and his relationship with Warner continues to trend upwards.
The pair have put on 795 runs at a phenomenal average of 113.57 in their seven innings together at the top of Australia's one-day line-up, with partnerships of 284 in Adelaide in 2017, 147 again in Adelaide last Thursday and 269 in Melbourne on Tuesday.
"We (Warner and I) see the game in a similar way," said Head.
"I think we've seen that in the way that we've gone out and played in the past and in this series. It's been a nice partnership, I enjoy batting with him and vice versa, hopefully.
"He's obviously (an) unbelievable (player), which helps to have the confidence at the other end.
"I'll take any position that puts me in the Australian cricket team.
"In white-ball cricket I'd like to bat as high as I possibly can. I know the various opportunities I have got at the top I've had some success. I guess the challenge now … is being able to do it consistently for a period of time."
Head overcame a back spasm to take his place in the XI on Tuesday but was unable to take the field later in the evening due to illness.
While Head and Warner dominated a weary England attack coming off a T20 World Cup triumph nine days ago from the outset, Head said he still had to work hard for his first 20 to 30 runs.
"It wasn't the most free-flowing I'd like to be, I obviously gave up a chance and got away with a review as well," he said.
"There was a fair bit there in the wicket and I still wanted to be ultra-positive around the scoring opportunities, so it was nice we were able to build a partnership there and go on with it."
Australia don't have another 50-over fixture until at least March next year, with Head switching to red-ball mode for the beginning of the Test summer next Wednesday against the West Indies in Perth where he will be hoping to nail down his No.5 role following difficult subcontinent tours of Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
"I've played a fair bit of (Sheffield) Shield cricket (this season) and even though I haven't got the runs I would have liked in that format, the way I was playing I felt like I wasn't far away," said Head.
"This week's been nice to know that it hasn't been far away.
"I've played aggressive and I've played attacking cricket and they've put us under pressure, they've swung the ball a fair bit in all three games.
"So I've got full confidence going into the five days (training) in Perth, I'll get plenty of opportunities against our fast bowlers and I know if I get through four or five days of that, then I'll be ready to go."
Men's Dettol ODI Series v England
1st ODI: Australia won by six wickets
2nd ODI: Australia won by 72 runs
3rd ODI: Australia won by 221 runs
Australia ODI squad: Pat Cummins (c), Sean Abbott, Ashton Agar, Alex Carey, Cameron Green, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Josh Inglis, Marnus Labuschagne, Mitchell Marsh, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Marcus Stoinis, David Warner, Adam Zampa
England ODI squad: Jos Buttler (c), Moeen Ali, Sam Billings, Sam Curran, Liam Dawson, Chris Jordan, Dawid Malan, Adil Rashid, Jason Roy, Phil Salt, Olly Stone, James Vince, David Willey, Chris Woakes, Luke Wood
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Head making no assumptions ahead of 2023 World Cup – cricket.com.au
Australia v England ODIs – Men