Friday marks the resumption of pleasantries between two fiercely competitive rivals - England and Australia.
This is a series unlike most gone by as it is not part of an Ashes tour but rather a 5 match One Day International series.
Don’t let this fool you though, there certainly won’t be any love lost, with both being eager to win the series to take some momentum into next summer’s Ashes, and Australia looking for a vital win on English soil.
England enter as favourites following a resounding win against West Indies and with bragging rights from back to back Ashes wins, but in Australia, England face the team ranked 1st in the world for ODI’s.
Nonetheless, Alastair Cook’s side will be looking to extend their recent run of success against Australia and will use it as an indicator to measure the progress England have made in this format of the game in recent years.
With this in mind, I see the key battles being as follows:
With their textbook style and fluid run making, Ian Bell and Alastair Cook are an ideal duo to give England a solid start. Warner and Watson on the other hand are explosive and can be match winners if they are able to get going, so the English bowlers will
need to be aggressive from the get go to stifle this pair. Eitherway, both sets of bowlers will feel that early wickets are imperative.
England look set to start 5 bowlers and will therefore have a relatively short middle order. Trott, Bopara, Morgan and Kieswetter are likely to feature with the first two providing solidity and sensible run scoring, and the latter two providing the flair necessary to score quick runs when required. While this is a potentially match winning combination, the inconsistency of Bopara, Morgan and Kieswetter raises a concern.
For the Aussies however, they are likely to opt for a deeper batting line up with Michael Clarke, David Hussey, George Bailey, Steve Smith and Matthew Wade. The experience of Clarke and Hussey in particular is a huge positive in this match up. With Matthew Wade deep in this line up, the English bowlers will have a lot to do as the Aussies will back themselves to set/chase any target.
England’s strength, even during their tricky winter tours, has been their bowling. Unfazed by conditions, they have formed a partnership that looks happy to go after even the strongest of batting line ups. By going with 5 bowlers they are able to include Finn who has been highly successful in his brief soiree on the international stage. While their bowling has proven to be highly successful on home soil, they are no slouches with the bat either. So while the middle order might be short, Bresnan, Broad and Swann ensure that there are capable batsmen all the way down to number 9 in the line up.
We should not ignore the Aussies though. In Cummins, Australia have a future star in their pace attack. He will be looking to make a name for himself in this series and combined with the experience and talent of Lee, Watson and Hilfenhaus the England batsmen will face a challenge that they have not been met with since the last time these two sides locked horns. They have brought along Xavier Doherty as their spin threat but I think it is the pace attack that the English batsmen will be more concerned with.
But while most of the English bowlers can bat a bit, the same cannot be said for the Aussies, thus creating an extended tail for them. For this reason I see England edging the contest between the sets of bowlers.
All in all, this series looks to be a very close affair and a fitting warm up for next years Ashes series. However, on home soil I see England winning the series, with their bowlers being the difference between the sides.
image: © chrisjrn