Australia's bowlers have admitted they need to execute better among a host of problems they need to solve with just three games remaining before the ODI World Cup.
The beleaguered bowlers copped yet another hiding in Indore on their way to a fifth consecutive ODI defeat. After winning the toss and bowling first for the fourth time in those five matches, they conceded 399 for 5 in 50 overs.
It came on the back of conceding scores of 416, 338 and 315 in the last three games in South Africa. Abbott, who has played in three of those four games including Indore where he conceded 91 from his ten overs, admitted that his side's execution was well off the mark heading into a World Cup.
"We've obviously just not executed as well as we would have liked," Abbott said after the loss. "It's all well and good to say that we'll take learnings out of these games and stuff like that, but we do need to execute better as a whole.
"It showed today when we were bowling, and it was a little bit the same in South Africa as well, as soon as we missed the stumps we were punished."
Australia will point to the fact that they haven't had their first-choice attack on the park for those five games but that in itself is a major concern with just one ODI and two practice matches remaining before their opening World Cup match against India in Chennai. Australia's hierarchy has spoken about the length of the World Cup campaign and not wanting to cook the players before the tournament starts. But there is a danger of being severely undercooked.
Mitchell Starc (groin) has not played any of the last seven ODIs but is hopeful of playing the third match against India on Wednesday and will be a huge addition to the struggling attack. Glenn Maxwell (ankle/paternity leave) and Ashton Agar (calf/paternity leave) have also been unavailable and the fitness of both remain a slight concern with Agar presently still in Australia. Maxwell did play a 50-over practice match for Victoria on September 20, before flying to India where he batted and bowled four overs, but he has not played since arriving in India last Friday.
Pat Cummins and Mitchell Marsh were both rested in Indore. Cummins had only played one game on return from his wrist fracture having missed the entire South Africa series. He stated before the first ODI in Mohali that he wanted to play all three matches against India, having only captained two ODIs previously in his career, but was rested for the second game.
Marsh played Australia's last six ODIs prior to the Indore ODI but he has not bowled in any of them. He played as a batter only in South Africa while slowly building his bowling workload at training to have him fit to bowl in India, but he did not bowl in the first ODI in Mohali. Marsh bowled just 34 overs in the Ashes, which finished nearly two months ago, but there are still concerns about his ankle which required surgery last summer. Prior to the Ashes, he had only bowled 34 overs across 26 white-ball matches in the previous 12 months.
Australia's two back-up quicks for the World Cup, Spencer Johnson and Nathan Ellis, also have fitness concerns. Johnson could only bowl eight overs on ODI debut in Indore due to hamstring soreness having missed the entire South Africa series with a hamstring injury, while Ellis injured his adductor in South Africa.
But even without those players available, quite a number of Australia's first-choice attack have still been playing. Josh Hazlewood and Adam Zampa have played three of the four games where they have conceded 315 or more. Hazlewood was Australia's best bowler on Sunday but he had conceded his worst figures in ODIs twice in South Africa. Zampa, Australia's banker, has been their most expensive bowler in those four matches, conceding 8.33 per over in the 30 overs he has bowled which included his record 0 for 113 at Centurion.
Abbott, Cameron Green and Marcus Stoinis are all part of the World Cup squad and have all been part of Australia's attack at various stages over those four games. Stoinis has been the least expensive bowler of those three but hasn't bowled in back-to-back ODIs this year. Given Marsh and Maxwell's lack of bowling and Stoinis' form with the bat, Green looms as a pivotal all-round cog in Australia's first-choice XI but is struggling for form with both bat and ball.
Australia's death bowling has been abysmal across the four games conceding 96 runs in the final ten overs in Potchefstroom, 173 in Centurion, 113 in Johannesburg and then 103 in Indore. It was compounded too by a slow over-rate penalty with Abbott having to bowl the 50th over with only four men outside the circle.
But given how bad they were in South Africa, Abbott felt they weren't quite as bad in Indore.
"Although we went for 400 again today, I thought the death bowling was pretty good," Abbott said. "It can still be improved a lot. But like I've mentioned a couple of times already, our execution and bringing those stumps into play, owning our lengths and putting pressure on the batters that way certainly has to improve and I have no doubt that we've got a very skilled attack."
Abbott was more concerned about his bowling with the newer ball in the first powerplay, where Australia has not been able to make any inroads, leaving them vulnerable at the death.
"I'd had a poor powerplay, had a pretty good powerplay last game, but I pride myself on the areas that I bowl and putting pressure on the batsman that way," Abbott said. "I've just noticed [in] the last and this tour so far, in these first two games, then in South Africa, the batters are just too good. As soon as you get off the stumps or pitching outside leg, they're not going to miss out.
"I feel like I've made some of the same mistakes a couple of games in a row now. But I still feel like my game's in a good place. And I'm going in the right direction, I've just got to get out there and do it. And I know a couple of other guys feel the same. So whilst it's not ideal if you're an Aussie supporter, we're very confident still.
"But we certainly don't disregard the results and how we've performed because we know there's a lot of work to do."