Tri-series opener a tale of two captains
Friday, January 16, SCG
Start time 2.20pm (0320 GMT)
The one-day tri-series was once as much a staple of the Australian cricket summer as Bill Lawry's "got 'im" cries or Richie Benaud's cream jacket. Now they are little more than cameos, popping up occasionally as reminders of a bygone era. Lawry commentates only in his home city of Melbourne, Benaud's appearances are dictated by his health, and the tri-series operates only when India are touring and the broadcasting rights, therefore, are sufficient to make it worthwhile. The last version was played in 2011-12, when Australia held off Sri Lanka and India; this time they will battle with India and England for the Carlton Mid Tri-Series trophy, whatever that might look like.
Of course, this is effectively no more than a warm-up for all three sides ahead of the World Cup, which begins in less than a month. When Australia take on England at the MCG on February 14, far more will be riding on it than Friday's clash at the SCG. But the series provides an important chance to find form and settle on line-ups. For England, it is an opportunity to gel under the new captain Eoin Morgan after the sacking of Alastair Cook in a last-ditch attempt to improve their World Cup chances. Morgan himself is in need of runs, having scored only one fifty in his past 19 ODI innings. England will also hope to regain the winning feeling after last year's series losses at home to Sri Lanka and India, and away to Sri Lanka.
Australia will play this tri-series without captain Michael Clarke, who is recovering from hamstring surgery and hopes to be able to take some part in the World Cup. Rather than Test vice-captain Steven Smith, George Bailey will lead the side in Clarke's absence. Like Morgan, he wants runs himself, for when and if Clarke returns it is unlikely Smith, Bailey and Clarke will all squeeze into the one side. Australia will likely also use the series to assess whether they feel Glenn Maxwell can carry the spin duties in the World Cup, with Xavier Doherty needing desperately to impress if given a game.
(last five matches, most recent first)
In the spotlight
George Bailey finds himself in a curious position. He is the only Australian in the top 10 of the ICC's one-day batting rankings. If he makes 55 in this game he will break David Boon's record as the fastest to 2000 ODI runs for Australia. He is the captain for this series, and likely for the start of the World Cup. And yet if Michael Clarke returns for game two of the World Cup, Bailey might lose his place in the team, such is the strength of Australia's batting order. After a couple of lean series, now would be a good time to stake his claim once again.
Ian Bell's 187 was the major talking point from the Prime Minister's XI match, but in both the warm-up games it was his opening partner Moeen Ali who flew quicker out of the blocks. Ali made 50 off 38 balls against the ACT Invitational XI and then 71 off 49 against the Prime Minister's XI, and he is coming off a series against Sri Lanka in which he made his maiden ODI century. Add in his offspin and it seems that Ali is always involved in the game.
Mitchell Marsh is unlikely to be considered until later in the series as he continues to recover from a hamstring injury, while Mitchell Johnson and Josh Hazlewood could be rested after their workload in the Test series. That could mean a home-town ODI debut for Gurinder Sandhu, unless the selectors decide to go for the specialist spin of Xavier Doherty.
Australia (possible) 1 David Warner, 2 Aaron Finch, 3 Shane Watson, 4 Steven Smith, 5 George Bailey (capt), 6 Glenn Maxwell, 7 Brad Haddin (wk), 8 James Faulkner, 9 Mitchell Starc, 10 Pat Cummins, 11 Gurinder Sandhu/Xavier Doherty.
If there were any doubts who would replace Alastair Cook at the top of the order, Ian Bell snuffed them out with 187 against the Prime Minister's XI on Wednesday. It remains to be seen how England will balance their attack, with both Stuart Broad and James Anderson back in the mix after missing the series in Sri Lanka. However, Anderson's fitness was to be monitored at training on Thursday and he was no certainty to take part in Friday's match.
England (possible) 1 Ian Bell, 2 Moeen Ali, 3 James Taylor, 4 Joe Root, 5 Eoin Morgan (capt), 6 Jos Buttler (wk), 7 Ravi Bopara, 8 Chris Woakes, 9 Stuart Broad, 10 James Tredwell, 11 James Anderson/Chris Jordan/Steven Finn.
Pitch and conditions
The Sydney Test against India provided excellent batting conditions and should once again for this ODI. The forecast for Friday is for a possible morning shower and a top temperature of 28C.
Stats and trivia
- Eoin Morgan has captained England in eight ODIs and averages 71.16 as leader.
- Since their 2006-07 tour, England have played 12 ODIs in Australia for only two victories; last time they won an ODI in Sydney, Mal Loye was opening and Paul Nixon was wicketkeeper.
- Should Gurinder Sandhu debut he will be ODI cap number 206 for Australia, and just the second player after Sean Abbott to debut for Australia in the past 16 months.
"It's something we're used to as a team, having to deal with not having a player like Michael in the side, and I think we've responded pretty well when that has been the case. I think our record speaks for itself."
George Bailey on the absence of Michael Clarke.
"I'm very happy with the group of players I have, I think this is the best group of players we have to drive the England team forward over the next two months in particular. Kevin's situation hasn't changed over the last year. It's been reiterated over months and days. It was reiterated before Christmas by the chairman of selectors and I'm reiterating it again just to clear it up."
Eoin Morgan restates there is no way back for Kevin Pietersen.
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @brydoncoverdale