Buoyant England target series win
June 27, 2010, Old Trafford
Start time 10.45am (9.45GMT)
Anyone who questions the relevance of this isolated five-match ODI series should have been present at Cardiff on Thursday to witness the darkening of Ricky Ponting's features when it was put to him by a fellow Australian that England are on the verge of claiming bragging rights in all three formats of international cricket. His response was abrupt and prickly, and betrayed the frustration he feels after two contests that were significantly more one-sided than their eventual four-wicket margins suggested.
If Sunday's third match at Old Trafford follows the pattern of the series so far, then England will back themselves to claim an unassailable 3-0 lead with two games to come, and will have gone a long, long way towards wiping the memory of their 6-1 reversal in September last year. And while Ponting rightly inferred that such an achievement hardly matches the trio of World Cups and back-to-back Champions Trophy titles that his men have racked up over the past decade, he is clearly concerned by the extent to which his team's standards have slipped in the past week. It is the price you pay for sustained magnificence.
Paul Collingwood, who became England's leading run-maker in ODI history on Thursday, has found himself talking the sort of talk that no English ODI team in living memory has felt sufficiently confident to put into words. "It's not arrogance," he declared. "We are the better side at the moment," and it's hard to disagree with that assessment. A bullish batting line-up has men for all occasions, not least Eoin Morgan's finishing skills, while the bowlers who thrived at the World Twenty20 have taken the urgency of the shortened format, and learned to adapt their tactics on the hoof.
Form guide (last five completed matches)
Watch out for...
Until Friday, Shaun Tait was plying his trade for Glamorgan in the FP t20, but now he's right back into the thick of the Aussie squad, and given the threadbare nature of their attack, it would be no surprise to see him pitched straight in at Old Trafford, especially given the pitch's pacy reputation in recent years. Tait is regarded as the ultimate short, sharp shock. His searing speed and penchant for the yorker have made him a fixture in Twenty20 cricket, although his last fifty-over game came in February 2009.
After two years of finding his feet, Luke Wright is coming into his own as an international cricketer. His belligerent batting is still arguably a place too high at No. 6 in the order, but an uncomplicated approach is no bad thing in a side that's brimming with confidence. His bowling, on the other hand, has been a revelation in recent weeks. An up-and-at-'em run-up, and a tight and aggressive line has proven extremely hard to dominate, and he has a belief in his own abilities that transcends any skill or subtlety. He, more than anyone else, epitomises the positive approach of this new-look England team.
No changes are anticipated to Australia's top six, who have acquitted themselves well without quite kicking on to the impregnable totals needed against England's powerful line-up. Their bowlers, however, have been on a bit of a merry-go-round, with three changes after the first match, and further alterations now required following Hauritz's withdrawal. Steven Smith, who removed Kevin Pietersen in his first over of the series, will have an important role to play with his legspin.
Australia (possible) 1 Shane Watson, 2 Tim Paine (wk), 3 Ricky Ponting (capt), 4 Michael Clarke, 5 Cameron White, 6 Michael Hussey, 7 James Hopes, 8 Steven Smith, 9 Shaun Tait, 10 Clint McKay, 11 Doug Bollinger.
No need to tinker for England, and no likelihood that they will do so either, especially seeing as Ryan Sidebottom and Ian Bell were released to play for their counties on Friday.
England (probable) 1 Andrew Strauss (capt), 2 Craig Kieswetter (wk), 3 Kevin Pietersen, 4 Paul Collingwood, 5 Eoin Morgan, 6 Michael Yardy, 7 Luke Wright, 8 Tim Bresnan, 9 Graeme Swann, 10 Stuart Broad, 11 James Anderson.
Pitch and conditions
Old Trafford didn't quite live up to expectations during the recent Test against Bangladesh, but there's enough life in the surface for all the quicks to enjoy themselves, and for the spinners to obtain that extra bounce that makes the difference to their impact. The weather is expected to be glorious once again, so it's another win-toss-and-bat scenario.
Stats and Trivia
- England have now won seven ODIs in a row, their best performance in 50-over cricket since 1997-98, when they beat Australia 3-0 in the Texaco Trophy, before Adam Hollioake's men stormed the desert in Sharjah. What happened next, however, didn't make for such pleasant reading ...
- There have been 37 ODIs at Old Trafford, dating back to 1972, but England's recent record on the ground is indifferent. Though they won their most recent fixture, against India in 2007, their only other victory since 1996 came against Zimbabwe in 2000.
- At Cardiff, Paul Collingwood became England's leading run-maker in ODI history, surpassing Alec Stewart's tally of 4677, and finishing the match on 4693. That figure, however, places him a lowly 62nd on the all-time list.
"If that's what you think, that's fine. Have a look at our head-to-heads in Test cricket, one-day cricket and Twenty20 cricket and tell me who has the bragging rights."
Ricky Ponting doesn't like the suggestion that Australia's mantle is slipping
"It's very encouraging, and we all feel like we are part of something that can grow, and grow, and grow."
Andrew Strauss is enjoying the winning feeling that England are cultivating at the moment
Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo.