Australia all-rounder Ashton Agar believes a “wonderful” team culture has played a key role in the nation’s stunning run of Twenty20 form.
Aaron Finch’s side extended their winning streak in Twenty20 internationals to eight matches on Saturday morning (AEDT), Agar taking 5-24 – including a hat-trick – in a 107-run win in Johannesburg.
Australia leads the three-match series 1-0 and can win it in Port Elizabeth, game two beginning at 11.30pm on Sunday evening (AEDT).
The Aussies have not lost a Twenty20 international since 2018, kickstarting their winning streak with a 2-0 triumph in India in February 2019.
Wins over Sri Lanka (3-0) and Pakistan (2-0) occurred in the recently completed Australian summer of cricket, and another success in South Africa would be a major boost ahead of this year’s Twenty20 World Cup – to be held Down Under in October and November.
Agar, who also hit 20 not out from just nine balls against South Africa, said the fantastic team environment made it much easier to perform.
“The relationships in the team are wonderful,” he told reporters in Johannesburg.
“Like, I love going out there and bowling with ‘Zamps’ [Adam Zampa]. I love watching Starcy [Mitchell Starc] steam in with the new ball.
“There’s great camaraderie when we are watching the other batters on the bench, we’re having fun at training.
“So the whole team is in a good place and I think that allows you to just go out there and express yourself.”
The spin twins
Agar then expanded on his friendship with leg-spinner Adam Zampa.
The spin twins combined for seven wickets in Johannesburg, running through the Proteas batting line-up in style.
“I think we’ve always got on along really well, ‘Zamps’ and I,” he said.
“We’re sort of pretty no fuss. Away from the field, we have similar interests and we just get along well … we both really enjoy talking about the game and speaking about spin bowling.
“I think we have a good understanding of each other’s games.
“Also, what we did well in Australia in the last T20 series, we identified if someone was getting wickets early, it’s their day to attack and the other one defends – and vice versa.
“So we play that role really nicely and it’s good to string a few games together with him.”
This is the Australian team’s first return to South Africa since the ball-tampering saga in 2018, which headlined a heated series that featured clashes between both sets of players.
A hostile welcome was tipped for Australia in Johannesburg, particularly for David Warner and Steve Smith, but Agar said the South African fans were “excellent”.
“It was awesome to see the respect that was shown after our anthem,” he added.
“I think that the whole South African crowd stood up and applauded after our anthem and that’s a massive sign of respect.
“When you’re standing out there arm in arm and you look up to that massive stand and it’s all South Africans, it can be really intimidating.
“But when you see them stand and applaud after the anthem, that’s a great sign of respect and to be fair, we’ve been treated incredibly well this whole week so hopefully that continues for the rest of the tour.”
Warner said earlier this week that he was not expecting a hostile series.
“It’s one-day cricket and Twenty20 cricket,” he said.
“You don’t really have much time over the short period of time to get underneath each other’s skin or anything like that … for us, our focus is moving forward and trying to get the wins on the board and send a message to everyone that the [T20] World Cup is in our backyard and we want to be a team to be beaten.”
The three-match Twenty20 series concludes in Cape Town on Thursday morning (AEDT).
A one-day international series between Australia and South Africa follows, also played over three matches, beginning on March 29.