A lot has changed for England and Australia since the time they faced each other in a bilateral white-ball series. The Englishmen were busy building themselves for the 2019 World Cup and a year before Australia ran into them, a side that was struggling to process the disaster that knocked on their doors a few months ago. Australia had a new captain, who hardly boasted of any leadership experience at the international level.
Their two best players, who were integral in keeping the side afloat if not dominate world cricket, had to watch from their televisions. And they would witness England steamroll Australia in all six international fixtures that involved a lone T20I, including taking them for a ride on the way to the highest ODI score.
Their coach Justin Langer and his colleagues’ cluelessness were palpable and could not help but admit they were up against the best side in the world, who also held the number one ODI ranking and still do.
It was not as if the presence of Steve Smith and David Warner would have made a monumental difference to Australia’s chances, considering England’s ruthlessness. That was all two years ago.
When Australia and England meet each other once again on Friday, the presence of a full-strength team and a new captain would not be enough to quantify changes. The side will bring with themselves Langer’s groundwork in two years that made them put up a respectable performance in the World Cup and retaining the Ashes in England.
Not to forget, Australia’s surge to the top of the T20I rankings and their undefeated five-match series streak, stretching back to November 2018. But having not played professional cricket since March, there would be nerves and rustiness.
Nevertheless, the visitors have swung their bats and rolled their arms in the warm-up games to finetune their skills and recognize their best combination amongst some new faces in the side. After all, they are up against a team, who are hunting their number one position.
Fresh from completing a successful Test summer and satisfying white-ball outings so far, the hosts have reinstated their candidates, who shaped their World Cup victory. Nevertheless, England have also got a good measure of their fringe candidates, some of whom made compelling cases.
But the abundance of batting options and especially the inclusion of Jos Buttler might make Tom Banton or Sam Billings miss out while Moeen Ali retains his place, owing to the fireworks against Pakistan on Tuesday.
The bowling department receives the much-needed strength in the form of Jofra Archer, Sam Curran, and Mark Wood. It might mean that Chris Jordan remains the only one to keep his spot from Pakistan series’ squad. Yet, the hosts get no breather, for Australia is a side largely similar to them.
However, the presence of Steve Smith, whose ability to stabilize the innings gives them a slight edge, something which the hosts lack. But England’s power-packed line-up will keep coming at Australia’s players, allowing them no time to relax. Have these both sides finally met their match?
With the likes of Jos Buttler, Mark Wood, Sam Curran, and Jofra Archer back in the squad, a few would have to sacrifice their spots in all the departments. As Jason Roy remains on the sidelines, there is an excellent chance for Tom Banton to keep his place.
Probable XI: Tom Banton, Jos Buttler, Jonny Bairstow (wk), Dawid Malan, Eoin Morgan (c), Sam Billings, Moeen Ali, Sam Curran, Adil Rashid, Jofra Archer, Mark Wood/Chris Jordan.
Australia contemplate handing Marnus Labuschagne his first T20I cap after his century in the practice game while Josh Philippe remains an equally exciting prospect. Both might have to wait for their chances as Glenn Maxwell comes back into the mix too. The three frontline pacers would most likely be Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, and Josh Hazlewood while a seam-bowling all-rounder in Marcus Stoinis seems imminent.
Probable XI: Aaron Finch (c), David Warner, Steven Smith, Glenn Maxwell, Marcus Stoinis, Alex Carey (wk), Ashton Agar, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins, Adam Zampa.
The pitch at the Ageas Bowl has stayed equally balanced towards the batsmen and bowlers. The ODIs between Ireland and England produced a high-scoring game as well as two occasions where the hosts faced troubles in chasing a modest total.
The temperature would remain at 12 degrees Celcius; however, there is grim news concerning showers. On Friday, a precipitation percentage of 62 % is in place and thus, could play spoilsport.
Head to head:
Played – 16
Won by England – 6
Won by Australia – 9
No result – 1
Stats that matter:
11 – Aaron Finch needs 11 runs to reach 2000 runs in T20I cricket and would be the second Australian batsman to do so.
86 – Aaron Finch requires 76 more to breach past 9000 runs in T20 cricket.
6 – Mitchell Starc needs six wickets to become the highest wicket-taker for Australia in T20Is. He is currently on 43, behind Shane Watson’s 43.
17 – Glenn Maxwell needs 17 runs to get to 6000 runs in T20 cricket.
2013 – It was in 2013 that Finch smashed the then highest score in T20Is. He hammered 156 off 63 at the Ageas Bowl in Southampton seven years ago.
5 – Chris Jordan is still five scalps adrift from taking over Stuart Broad’s tally of 65 in T20I for England.
1-1: England and Australia have won one each T20I in Southampton.
It should be a highly enthralling and a close contest between the two sides. England and Australia both boast of ample match-winners and talented players, capable of turning the match on their heads. Hence, it’s difficult to choose between the two.