A Phoney War with focus
Match factsJune 22, 2010
Start time 2.30pm (13.30GMT)
If there is a future for 50-over cricket, then surely it lies in contests such as this: a five-match hors d'oeuvre that is decidedly and unashamedly geared towards more significant encounters in the not-so-distant future. Everything that England and Australia have done in their recent outings - whether it's thumping Pakistan or labouring past Bangladesh - has been assessed in the context of their Ashes preparations. So here we go then. Here's a proper Phoney War to be getting on with. May the best team steal the momentum and land the psychological blows.
Whatever happens in the coming five games, it is hard to envisage a scoreline as one-sided as last September's 6-1 drubbing. England have come on in leaps and bounds since that ignominious thrashing - their gameplans have been liberated by key personnel such as Eoin Morgan and Craig Kieswetter - while Australia, regardless of their status as World Cup and Champions Trophy-holders, are in an undeniable period of transition, and beset by a raft of injuries to many of their first-choice seam attack, most notably Mitchell Johnson, Ben Hilfenhaus and the fading Brett Lee.
But the real reason why this series could and should be a humdinger lies in its timing. Ever since the days of the Texaco Trophy, English teams have invariably performed better when the one-dayers have preceded the Tests. In 2005, England produced some of their best 50-over form of the decade to share the NatWest Series courtesy of a tied final against Australia (before slumping 2-1 in the subsequent NatWest Challenge, but that's another story), while their achievement in beating South Africa in South Africa back in November gave them vital self-belief ahead of the tough Test series that followed.
Whether the public interest will match the expected commitment from the teams is a moot point - although given how woeful both England and Australia have been in the football World Cup to date, many sports fans might quite enjoy the chance to recapture some bragging rights.
Form guide (last five completed matches)
Watch out for...
Ricky Ponting is back in England and bristling for vengeance once again. His last two visits have not been among the most enjoyable memories of his illustrious career, seeing as he surrendered the Ashes in both 2005 and 2009, but the indignities will only have strengthened his resolve. He's now the elder statesman of a new-look team, and his talents may not be as razor-edged as they once were, but his presence on a cricket field remains inspirational nonetheless.
Paul Collingwood was a part of the England side that thrashed Australia by 100 runs on this very ground in 2005, in the first Twenty20 international between the two teams. While the prospect of once again reducing the Aussies to 31 for 7 may be improbable, Collingwood knows full well how critical it is to attack from the outset, just as they did five years ago. After his break during the Bangladesh series, he's fit and refreshed, and ready to resume hostilities.
Cameron White scored a century on this ground when the teams met last September, and he is now the fulcrum of the batting line-up at No. 5. Tim Paine resumes his wicketkeeping duties following the injury to Brad Haddin, while Doug Bollinger leads an inexperienced seam attack, in the absence of Johnson and Hilfenhaus.
Australia (probable) 1 Shane Watson, 2 Tim Paine (wk), 3 Ricky Ponting (capt), 4 Michael Clarke, 5 Cameron White, 6 Michael Hussey, 7 James Hopes, 8 Nathan Hauritz, 9 Ryan Harris, 10 Clint McKay, 11 Doug Bollinger.
England eased to victory over Scotland at the weekend, and it's hard to envisage many changes to the side for that game. Andrew Strauss and Craig Kieswetter gelled as an opening partnership at the first time of asking, while Stuart Broad will be better for his first outing since the World Twenty20 final.
England (probable) 1 Andrew Strauss (capt), 2 Craig Kieswetter (wk), 3 Kevin Pietersen, 4 Paul Collingwood, 5 Eoin Morgan, 6 Luke Wright, 7 Tim Bresnan, 8 Graeme Swann, 9 Stuart Broad, 10 Ajmal Shahzad, 11 James Anderson.
Pitch and conditions
The Rose Bowl had a reputation as a seamer's paradise in its early years, but the pitch has settled down considerably since then. With fine weather in prospect, the challenge of batting under lights will be less daunting than it might otherwise have been, although White and Co. weren't exactly unsettled by the autumnal chill they experienced on their last visit.
Stats and Trivia
- The Rose Bowl match will be the 3000th ODI, and it will feature the same two teams who contested the first, at Melbourne in January 1971.
- Despite defeating Australia in the Ashes and the final of the World Twenty20, England's recent record in ODIs against them is woeful. They've lost eight of their last nine fixtures, dating back to the World Cup in March 2007, and most recently were crushed by nine wickets in the semi-final of the Champions Trophy last October.
- Australia have a 100% record in ODIs at the Rose Bowl, albeit they've played just two matches, against England in 2009 and the USA in 2004. England have won two, lost two in four visits.
"We all remember that Twenty20 game at Hampshire where we kept nipping them out. You've got to go hard at them. We've learnt that over the last five or six years."
Paul Collingwood wants no quarter given as England begin their Ashes preparations in earnest
"Whenever there is a big series coming up the build-up starts a fair way out - and for the Ashes it's already started. Pretty much from now until the Ashes are over and done with in the middle of January, everything we do will have some sort of focus on the Ashes series. There will be no excuses for us come late November."
Ricky Ponting is quite focused, it would appear.
Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo.