Lords plays host to the 1st match of the ODI series between cricket’s oldest rivals, England and Australia.The 5 match series played over the 10 days sandwiched between the respective tours of West Indies and South Africa, there have been murmurings within the media that the series will be meaningless and an additional test against South Africa would be more beneficial for England. Certainly, if England were to lose 2-1 or 1-0 in the forthcoming test series against South Africa, those murmurings will become deeper questions.
Following on from the 2-0 victory in the 3 match ODI series against West Indies, there will plenty of confidence within the England camp, particularly from opening batsmen, Ian Bell and Alastair Cook, who both made centuries in that series. Cook has made 3 centuries in his last 6 ODI matches, form which has seen him move to number 5 in ICC ODI batting rankings, as a result he will be viewed by Australia as a key wicket.
In naming an unchanged 14 man squad for this series, England will be hoping to find that a consistency in selection will be matched by a consistency in results and a third successive ODI series victory. A 5-0 whitewash by England would see them replace Australia as the number 1 ODI team, and in doing so become the first side to top all 3 international rankings. A whitewash against a number 1 ranked team is at best highly ambitious, but a year ago the same comments were being made prior to the test series against India, so it can’t be ruled out, but it would be a surprise if history was to be repeated.
Aside from Alastair Cook, England’s chief batting threats have to be Ian Bell & Jonathan Trott. Bell, having scored 179 runs in the two ODI’s against West Indies, has relished his new opening role, and Trott is grinding batsmen who hangs around and can play a vital role in steadying the ship following an early wicket. Eion Morgan should not be overlooked as well, his form has been poor over the last 18 month’s but he is an explosive talent who has the ability to change the course of a game from his batting position of 5.
England’s bowling lineup has performed fantastically in the past two ODI series, only failing to bowl out the opposition within 50 overs once, and on that occasion they took 9 wickets. The wickets have come from a variety of different sources, but James Anderson is the undoubted leader of the attack, if not contributing in terms of wickets, his opening bowling spell is usually a platform for the bowling attack to build from. Steven Finn has shown impressive improvement over the last two ODI series, adding discipline and efficiency to his already proven wicket taken ability. Graeme Swann is always a threat with ball as to is Stuart Broad, and with Tim Bresnan, Jake Dernbach and Samit Patel also in the squad, England’s bowling depth on paper is extremely strong.
What of Australia then? They are the number 1 ranked ODI team, so command the ultimate respect and in Michael Clarke, David Warner & Shane Watson, they have a strong top order batting lineup, which is backed up by David Hussey, Stephen Smith and new boy, Matthew Wade. Their performances on the tour so far have shown they will be no pushover, as much as England are building towards 2015’s World Cup, so to are Australia.
Australia’s bowling lineup is a mix of experience and youth, Brett Lee, Mitchell Johnson & Shane Watson represent the experience, and James Pattinson & Patrick Cummings provide the youth. Watson aside, there is no shortage of pace from Australia’s front line attack, and they will represent a stern test for England’s batsmen, as Alastair Cook found out first hand on Tuesday during Australia’s final warm up match when he was bowled out for 5 by Clint McKay whose performances may well have earned him a starting berth in tomorrow’s match.
Prospect’s for the series, on paper and on form both teams look evenly matched, England’s greater experience and proven ability in home conditions make them narrow favourites. I predict an extremely tight series reflecting in the scorelines not only in the overall series score but in the individual match scores. I anticipate England to be victorious 3-2 or 4-1 in a hard-fought series.