Don't mention the Ashes
Friday, June 29, 2012
Start time 1045 (0945 GMT)
The Big Picture
The fact that this series is taking place at all speaks volumes for England's new priorities. Having won the World Twenty20 and moved to the top of the Test rankings, they are now targeting a global ODI trophy as one of their top priorities. While there is no diminution in their Test ambitions in particular, so deep is their desire to win the 2015 World Cup (or, to a slightly lesser extent, the 2013 Champions Trophy) that the ECB scheduled this five-match ODI series ahead of adding another Test to the much-anticipated series between England and South Africa. In return, the ECB secured a five-match ODI series in Australia right before the 2015 World Cup, to be staged in Australia and New Zealand.
England are an improving ODI team. Despite the humbling 5-0 reverse in India, England have won their last six ODI series at home and, despite the recent retirement of Kevin Pietersen, are building a solid side that, while lacking in explosive batsmen, possesses good quality players well capable of dealing with the introduction of two new balls. They also have an outstanding bowling attack and good depth in both batting and bowling.
Australia, too, are in something of a transition in ODI cricket. Still ranked No. 1 in the world, they are introducing young players into the side - the likes of Matthew Wade and Pat Cummins - as they look to the future and 2015 in particular. This tour will provide several of their players with the opportunity of familiarising themselves with English conditions ahead of next year's Ashes tour, while Australia A will also arrive in the UK shortly on a tour of their own.
Despite some expressing a concern that this series and an over-familiarity between the sides could dilute the special atmosphere of an Ashes series, Lord's is anticipating a full house. While there is no great prize for victory, it will provide some indication of the strengths and weaknesses of each side.
England WWWWW (Most recent first, abandonments excluded)
Players to watch
Prospects are looking up for Ian Bell. Dropped from the ODI side over the winter, Bell won a reprieve when Kevin Pietersen retired and enjoyed an excellent start in his new role as opening batsman against West Indies. This series provides tougher opposition but, if Bell bats with the class and positivity he displayed against West Indies, he will have cemented his position alongside Alastair Cook at the top of the order.
For most in England, this game will offer a first opportunity to see Pat Cummins in action. Just 19 years old, Cummins may be short of experience, but he has immense promise. Blessed with natural pace and an ability to swing the ball away from right-handers, he also appears to have remarkable control and maturity for one so young. Both captains have been at pains to insist that this series has no relevance to next year's Ashes encounters, but it does seem safe to assume that Cummins will be making his first of many appearances at Lord's. He has a bright future.
England (probable) 1 Alastair Cook (capt), 2 Ian Bell, 3 Jonathan Trott, 4 Ravi Bopara, 5 Eoin Morgan, 6 Craig Kieswetter, 7 Tim Bresnan, 8 Stuart Broad, 9 Graeme Swann, 10 James Anderson, 11 Steve Finn.
Australia (probable) 1 Shane Watson, 2 David Warner, 3 George Bailey, 4 Michael Clarke, 5 David Hussey, 6 Steven Smith, 7 Matthew Wade, 8 Brett Lee, 9 Clint McKay, 10 Pat Cummins, 11 Xavier Doherty.
Pitch and conditions
The forecast is not wonderful, with a 60% chance of rain and a noticeable drop in temperature anticipated. But Lord's is remarkably fast draining and looks as immaculate as ever. The pitch is expected to be good, though totals of 300 or more have been achieved only four times in 52 ODIs on the ground. One of those came when Australia defeated Zimbabwe in 1999, another came in 1975, when England scored 334 in 60 overs against India and the two other occasions both occurred in the same match, when the batsmen of India and England enjoyed a fine pitch in 2002.
Stats and trivia
- If England win the series 5-0, they will move to the top of the ODI rankings. That would make them the first team to top the rankings in all three formats of the game.
- England have won their last six ODIs and their last six home ODI series. The last two sides to tour England - India and West Indies - failed to win an international match on the trip.
- The last time these two sides played an ODI series, however, following the 2010-11 Ashes, Australia won 6-1.
- This is the last men's game at Lord's (there is a women's T20I between England and India at the ground on Sunday) before the MCC hand over control of the ground to the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) on Monday. They will not officially reclaim control of the ground until July 18, the day before the first Test against South Africa.
"Our goal as an Australian cricket team is to be number one in the world in all three formats of the game."
Michael Clarke, Australia's captain, on their plan to dominate
"If someone said do you want to be number one in the world or win the World Cup, I would take the World Cup."
Alastair Cook, England's captain, has other priorities
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo