Forget The Ashes, this time the scales tip England’s way
Following the recently completed Ashes series, won so comprehensively by Australia, the old enemies now embark on five One Day Internationals before the summer cricketing trilogy is completed with two Twenty20 matches in early February.
Although the opening ODI today at the Melbourne Cricket Ground may not inspire the same excitement as the Boxing Day Test – and about half the ticket sales – there are still some points of interest.
Primarily how can England be expected to bounce back after the devastation of the 4-0 walloping?
The answer: surprisingly well, as from representing the same nation there is very little similarity between this England line-up and the one that surrendered so meekly in the main event.
For starters as few as four players who went down in flames in Sydney will back-up: opening bat Jonny Bairstow, recovered Joe Root, spinner Moeen Ali and medium pacer Tom Curran. A second medium-pacer/batsman Chris Woakes, who also featured prominently in The Ashes should also make an appearance.
Joining them are ODI captain Eoin Morgan, Jos Buttler, who will be preferred as keeper to Bairstow, the genuinely sharp Liam Plunkett and Mark Wood (not used in the Tests), Jason Roy or bad bay No2 Alex Hales, partnering Bairstow up top, and Adil Rashid, the legspinner who should have played in Sydney rather than the limited Mason Crane.
And unlike the Tests, where questions abounded over England’s new faces – Mark Stoneman, James Vince, Dawid Malan and Crane – the question marks today hang over the Australian line-up and a middle order that has been the Achilles heel in recent years.
England come into the match with form on their side – four wins from their last five starts – where Australia are completely the opposite, losing four of their last five.
And whereas England have a staapart ble lineup that picks itself Australia have multiple options at No5 and 6 with Marcus Stoinis, Mitchell Marsh and the recalled Cameron White in the mix, a new wicketkeeper in Tim Paine and a bowling line up without the rested Josh Hazlewood, replaced by the far less fearsome Andrew Tye.
In the end it may come down again to Steve Smith saving Australia but his ODI average of 43.23 is nothing like his Bradman-like Test median (63.75) and without the Aussie captain’s dominance, in this series — when the big moments arrive — it may be England not the hosts who come out on top.