England's chance to make an impact
History strongly favours Australia
After struggling for more than a decade, England turned the tables on Australia in Tests in recent years by dominating the last two Ashes series and winning three of the last four Test series between the two teams. However, England have never quite been able to lift themselves similarly in ODIs against Australia. In both the ODI series following the Ashes (2009 and 2011), Australia trounced England by a 6-1 margin. The solitary series success for England against Australia in recent years was in the home series in 2010 when they edged Australia 3-2. England, however, have not lost a single home series since the loss against Australia in 2009 and are on a six-match winning streak. Australia, on the other hand, have been unable to maintain their lofty standards in the last two years. They failed to reach the semi-final stage in the World Cup for the first time since 1992. However, they regrouped and went on to win ODI series in Sri Lanka and South Africa before triumphing in the Australian tri-series. In their last series against West Indies, which ended 2-2, their form was patchy as the batsmen struggled on the slow pitches.
Overall, Australia lead England comfortably in the head-to-head contests, winning 57 and losing 42 matches. While England have been outclassed in Australia (20 wins and 36 losses), they have been more competitive in home matches (20 wins and 25 losses). In neutral venues, Australia have once again been the dominant team, winning six out of eight matches. Australia have by far been the better team in global tournaments, winning three consecutive World Cups and the last two editions of the Champions Trophy. In contrast, England have made just one major final (Champions Trophy in 2004) in the same time period and have lost to Australia in three of the last four global tournaments. Considering Australia's world-beating run between 1999 and 2007, it is hardly surprising that the contests against England have been thoroughly one-sided. Since 2000, Australia have a win-loss ratio of 3.00 (33 wins and 11 losses) in head-to-head contests against England. The ratio drops only slightly (2.37) in ODIs played since 2007.
Recent home form boosts England
In 2005, England pulled off a remarkable upset in the Ashes by winning their first series against Australia in 19 years. They threatened to win the ODI tri-series before the Ashes but Australia fought back in the final to ensure that the game ended in a tie. Following a 5-0 Test drubbing in Australia the following year, England stunned Australia by winning the CB series. Since then, however, England have almost always been on the receiving end in head-to-head contests. Australia comfortably beat England in the 2007 World Cup and crushed them 6-1 in the ODI series in England in 2009. In the semi-final of the Champions Trophy in 2009, Shane Watson and Ricky Ponting scored centuries as Australia completed a nine-wicket win.
The batting and bowling stats in these series clearly reflect Australia's dominance. In 2005 (tri-series and NatWest Challenge in England), Australia had the better batting average and run-rate. Although they lost the CB series in 2006-07, the average difference (difference between batting averages of Australia and England) and run-rate difference (difference between run-rates of Australia and England) were in Australia's favour. In the 2009 series in England, which Australia won 6-1, the average difference was 14.40 in favour of Australia. England have clearly struggled in global tournaments and lag behind by a huge margin on the average and run-rate front (average difference of 62.07 and run-rate difference of 0.64). Considering their vastly inferior head-to-head record, England's only hope has to be their excellent run in home ODIs since the beginning of 2010. In the same period, the average difference and run-rate difference for England are 5.30 and 0.38 respectively.
|Series||Year||Matches||Wins/Losses (Australia)||Bat avg (Australia)||Bat avg (Eng)||Avg diff||RR (Aus)||RR(Eng)||RR diff|
|Tri-series/Natwest Challenge in England||2005||7||3/2||36.60||32.54||4.06||5.02||4.56||0.46|
|CB series in Australia||2006-07||6||3/3||31.02||26.48||4.54||5.01||4.70||0.31|
|Natwest series in England||2009||7||6/1||39.40||25.00||14.40||5.15||4.86||0.29|
|Natwest series in England||2010||5||2/3||35.69||28.58||7.11||5.22||5.10||0.12|
|ODI series in Australia||2010-11||7||6/1||36.19||27.25||8.94||5.49||5.25||0.24|
|World Cup/Champions Trophy matches||2007/2006 and 2009||3||3/0||84.50||22.43||62.07||5.36||4.72||0.64|
Australia light on batting
Ponting, no longer a part of Australia's ODI team, is likely to be missed in the upcoming series. He jointly held the record for the most ODI centuries (five) against England and also averaged 48.42. In the absence of the highly consistent Michael Hussey, the pressure will be enormous on Shane Watson. Watson has been in top form in ODIs in the last few years and has set himself apart in chases. Among batsmen with 1000 runs in chases, Watson is the only batsman to average over 50 and have a strike rate over 90. He holds the record for the top three scores by Australian batsmen in ODI chases, including 161 and 136 against England in Melbourne and Centurion respectively. David Warner, who will partner Watson at the top of the order, has established himself as a dangerous player in the shorter form. Warner made two consecutive centuries in the finals of the CB series and will be the key to providing Australia with a strong start. Michael Clarke has enjoyed his best batting form since taking over as Australia's captain. With Hussey missing out, Clarke will need to prop up middle order for an Australian team that is thin on batting.
England's worries about the absence of Kevin Pietersen have been assuaged to an extent by the form of Alastair Cook and Ian Bell. Cook, a slow starter in ODIs, has reinvented himself in the last two years. Not only has he averaged an excellent 54.13, he has also scored at superb strike rate of 91.47. With Bell running into form against West Indies, England's openers (including Pietersen) have scored a century in each of the last six innings. The presence of the highly reliable Jonathan Trott (average 49.25) and the dangerous Eoin Morgan gives the England batting line-up a more settled look before the five-match series.
Lee leads excellent pace attack
Despite an injury-ridden career, Brett Lee has managed to retain his pace and aggression. His display in the rain-affected ODI against Ireland will undoubtedly give him confidence ahead of the England series. Lee, just two wickets away from surpassing Glenn McGrath as the leading wicket-taker in ODIs for Australia, is by far the most successful bowler against England. Lee has 64 wickets in 34 matches at an excellent average of 22.0 with three five-wicket hauls. His stats are equally good in ODIs played since the start of 2009 (76 wickets at 23.61). Mitchell Johnson, who was left out of the squad after an ordinary display in South Africa, is back in the reckoning again. Johnson, one of only four bowlers with 100-plus wickets since 2009, provides Australia with a useful all-round option given his batting ability. Along with the in-form Clint McKay (52 wickets at 21.84), Watson also strengthens Australia's bowling department.
In conditions that aid swing and movement, James Anderson and Stuart Broad are among the most dangerous bowlers. Although both bowlers have an economy rate higher than five, their wicket-taking ability in the opening overs has proved crucial for England. Steve Finn, who picked up two consecutive four-wicket hauls in the ODIs against Pakistan, is an excellent back-up pace option. England are also likely to play Tim Bresnan, who can contribute on the batting front. Graeme Swann, who bowled England to their solitary win against Australia in the home ODI series in 2009, provides England with the much-needed variety in the bowling attack. Swann has not only demonstrated a knack of picking up important wickets but has also proved to be extremely economical (economy rate of 4.41).
Teams batting first have enjoyed a slight advantage (5-4) at Lord's and The Oval, which are the venues for the first two matches. In Edgbaston, where the third ODI is to be played, teams chasing have failed to win even a single game. At both Lord's and The Oval, the first-innings average and run-rate is significantly better than the corresponding numbers in the second innings. The contrast is even more pronounced in Edgbaston where the average difference and run-rate difference (12.58 and 1.15) are strongly in favour of teams batting first. At Old Trafford, where the averages are significantly lower than those at the other grounds, chasing teams have found the going better. Spinners have a better average than pace bowlers at Lord's but have struggled at The Oval and Edgbaston. However, at Chester-le-Street, spinners have comfortably outperformed the fast bowlers both in terms of the average and economy rate.
|Ground||Matches||Wins/losses (batting first)||1st inns (avg/RR)||2nd inns (avg/RR)||Pace (avg,ER)||Spin (avg,ER)|
Madhusudhan Ramakrishnan is a sub-editor (stats) at ESPNcricinfo