Australian captain Aaron Finch clarified before the T20 series that the defeat at Birmingham in the 2019 World Cup semi-final would not haunt them. As far as it were T20Is, Finch could maintain that statement. But as they switch to the ODIs, the skipper would not be entirely wrong to recollect the hammering the five-time champions received at the hands of eventual champions England. Friday’s first of the three ODIs in Manchester will mark the first meeting between the two sides since the knockout match of that competition.
Except for their all-rounder Ben Stokes, all players would make up the playing eleven that steamrolled Australia at the Edgbaston. Australia will no longer get the ephemeral relief that they got through the absence of Eoin Morgan and Jos Buttler in the dead rubber third T20I, helping the tourists to eke out a victory finally. Returning to the fold would also be the English Test skipper Joe Root, Jason Roy and Chris Woakes, both of who were significantly responsible for Australia’s first exit from a 50-over World Cup semi-final while Root applied the finishing touches.
Roy, who suffered a side strain that ruled him out of the T20Is against Pakistan and Australia, is revealed to have recovered from it. But his returns with the bat yielded only 25 runs in three matches against Ireland. Woakes, who shone in the Tests against Pakistan and West Indies so far this summer, will play his first ODI since February. With Jofra Archer and Mark Wood performing well in the T20Is and marking their returns, the home side will have the pace, zip, and control that otherwise lacked when they conceded 329 against Ireland in a dead rubber.
In contrast, Australia has suffered a barren run in ODIs after the 2019 World Cup. They reached the top of the Test and T20I rankings but currently languish at the 5th spot in ODIs. Out of the seven fixtures they played after the World Cup, Aaron Finch’s men have won only two of them, the latest of which came against New Zealand, a three-match series that eventually faced postponement due to COVID-19. Aaron Finch and David Warner have not been as consistent at the top followed by Steve Smith.
A fresh breath of air has been Marnus Labuschagne, who has two forty plus scores, two half-centuries, and a sole hundred in only seven ODIs. Hence, the right-handed batsman could be the one shielding the batting from a collapse. On the other hand, it remains to be seen whether Mitchell Marsh gets the reward for his calm innings to script a victory in the final T20I or whether Australia go back to Glenn Maxwell and Marcus Stoinis. There is also a case for Matthew Wade’s inclusion, who made more runs in a single inning in T20 series than Alex Carey’s couple. Carey, whose breakout series was the 2019 World Cup, has remained woefully out of form since then and failed to play any knock of note.
In the bowling department, the visitors have options in the likes of Riley Meredith and Daniel Sams, who they could begin grooming, keeping an eye on the 2023 World Cup. Mitchell Starc seems to have lost his cutting edge while Pat Cummins has proved as one-dimensional and Kane Richardson has not helped his case much either. Josh Hazlewood should consider himself as a certain starter after a credible performance in the final T20I. But will Australia take a bold call concerning their bowling attack to open their account in the ICC Cricket World Cup Super League?
With their regular white-ball picks returning for the ODIs, the Englishmen have returned to full strength. The likes of Joe Root, Jofra Archer, Mark Wood, Jos Buttler, and Chris Woakes will accommodate in the playing eleven with ease while Sam Billing should also find a spot after impressing against Ireland.
Probable XI: Jason Roy, Jonny Bairstow, Joe Root, Eoin Morgan (c), Jos Buttler (wk), Sam Billings, Moeen Ali, Chris Woakes, Adil Rashid, Jofra Archer, Mark Wood.
The top four will pick themselves; however, there remains a tussle between Marcus Stoinis and Mitchell Marsh to capture the seam-bowling all-rounder’s spot. There is also a case for Matthew Wade over Alex Carey after the former showed his brief exploits with the bat in the final T20I. For the opening ODI, the three seamers are likely to be Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, and Josh Hazlewood. It would also be interesting to see where do Kane Richardson and Ashton Agar fit in.
Probable XI: Aaron Finch (c), David Warner, Steve Smith, Marnus Labuschagne, Glenn Maxwell, Marcus Stoinis/Mitchell Marsh, Alex Carey/Matthew Wade (wk), Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, Adam Zampa.
The Old Trafford pitch produced two high-scoring encounters against Pakistan in T20Is while it has assisted bowlers in ODIs. Hence, it is an unknown prospect as of now how the track will behave.
The weather at the Old Trafford looks promising on Friday as bright sunshine will loom over clouds with only a 6% chance of precipitation. The temperature will remain at ten degrees Celcius.
Head to head:
Played – 149
Won by England – 62
Won by Australia – 82
No result – 3
Tied – 2
Stats that matter:
118 – Aaron Finch needs 118 runs to reach 5000 runs in ODIs.
78 – Joe Root needs 78 runs to reach 6000 in ODIs. He will only be the second English batsman to do so.
England indeed look the stronger side on paper and as per recent records too. After emerging triumphant in the three-match T20 series, the hosts and the reigning World champions with their regular white-ball players look firm favourites.