Pat Cummins under pressure as Nathan Ellis and Spencer Johnson stake World Cup claims

Matthew Wade has had his say amid some very tricky calls for selectors ahead of the T20 World Cup in June.

Pat Cummins.
Pat Cummins and the Australians swept New Zealand 3-0 in their T20 series. Image: Getty

Matthew Wade has backed Spencer Johnson and Nathan Ellis amid questions about whether the 'big three' of Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood are still the best options for Australia in T20 cricket. With the World Cup coming up later this year, Ellis and Johnson have emerged as very real threats to Cummins, Hazlewood and Starc.

Australia completed a clean-sweep of New Zealand on Sunday with a rain-affected 27-run win. Attention will now turn to the two-match Test series, but the T20 World Cup isn't too far in the future.

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While Cummins, Hazlewood and Starc are undoubtedly still Australia's best red-ball bowlers, questions are being asked about whether there are better options in the T20 format. The pace cartel don't usually play a lot of T20 cricket, and very rarely feature in the BBL each summer.

And with Ellis and Johnson emerging as top bowlers in white-ball cricket, they could muscle their way into the Aussie XI come the World Cup. Ellis played in the second and third games of the New Zealand series, and showed his nous in the shortest format of the game.

He took 2-16 from three overs in the second game, and 0-11 off two overs in the third. The fact he went for less than six per over at the batter-friendly Eden Park in Auckland was nothing short of remarkable.

Johnson only played in the third game of the series, but was also very stingy as he took 1-10 off two overs. It came in complete contrast to what Cummins, Hazlewood and Starc have been producing over the last few weeks.

The 'big three' were in action as Australia became the first team in T20 internationals to concede totals over 200 in four-straight matches. The West Indies made 202, 207 and 220 in their three-game series, before New Zealand made 215 in the first game of the following series.

Spencer Johnson and Nathan Ellis.
Spencer Johnson and Nathan Ellis are in fine form in T20 cricket. Image: Getty

Matthew Wade backs Nathan Ellis and Spencer Johnson

Ellis' inclusion in the second game of the series stopped the unwanted streak, while Hazlewood also bowled brilliantly in that fixture. Cummins and Starc have previously shown they can perform in T20s, and both have snared monster contracts for the upcoming IPL season.

But their performances in the lucrative T20 league might go a long way to determining who gets the nod when the World Cup kicks off in June. With Ellis and Johnson firing, the top dogs of Aussie cricket might find themselves struggling to make the XI.

Tellingly, Cummins isn't the Australian T20 captain anymore despite leading the Test and ODI teams. Mitch Marsh has assumed the captaincy in T20 cricket and appears a lock to skipper the Australian side at the World Cup. With Cummins no longer wearing the captain's armband, it would be a much easier decision to leave him out of the side if selectors deem there are better options.

"Spence (Spencer Johnson) has played a couple of games now and ticked every box," Matthew Wade said on Monday. "Then you've got guys like Nathan (Ellis) who come in and every time he gets an opportunity, he does really, really well. It's going to be tight for those last few spots ... but we're happy that we've got so much depth."

Steve Smith fails in last audition before T20 World Cup

Another big name who appears destined for disappointment at the World Cup is Steve Smith. The prolific batter was left out of the Aussie XI for the first game against New Zealand, before being given a chance to impress in games two and three. Unfortunately for the 34-year-old he only made 11 and four, and will struggle to crack the World Cup team unless there is an injury.

The Aussies are likely to roll out a batting lineup featuring David Warner, Travis Head, Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Josh Inglis, Tim David and one of either Matt Short or Matthew Wade. Smith has shown that his best position in T20 cricket is at the top of the order, but he's fallen behind Warner, Head and Marsh in the pecking order.

"Smitty hasn't played a heap of T20 cricket in the last little bit for Australia," Wade said of Smith. "Fingers crossed he makes it but there's there's always going to be someone that's unlucky."

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