England aim to finish in style
Tuesday, July 10
Start time 1400 (1300 GMT)
To be as driven to succeed as this England side are under the stewardship of Andy Flower is quite an advantage in a NatWest Series which essentially means very little and where desire has to come from within. That is enough for England to start as strong favourites in the final match against Australia at Old Trafford to achieve their tenth ODI win on the trot. Whether their improvement translates into a powerful challenge in the Champions Trophy next summer or the next World Cup in Australia and New Zealand remains to be seen.
That an England v Australia series could at times feel so mundane must have been quite a shock to the administrators who foisted it upon us. It has been a series without a proper narrative, an add-on before the real business of the Ashes next summer. There has been an underlying feeling that something is not quite right.
Rarely can an England one-day victory against Australia have felt as routine as their eight-wicket victory in Chester-le-Street on Saturday, a result that put them 3-0 with only Tuesday's dead rubber at Old Trafford remaining, an Old Trafford that is in the throes of rebuilding work. Only the façade of the old pavilion remains and two new two-tier stands were still Hard Hat areas as the weather again forced both sides to practice indoors.
There was much to admire in England's Chester-le-Street performance - the destructive fast bowling of Steve Finn and the batting elegance of Ian Bell are two of the highlights that spring to mind - but Australia, in the words of their coach Mickey Arthur, had allowed themselves to be "bullied." Australia's 50-over side, he asserted, had "something missing." Old Trafford is their last chance to find it.
Form guide (Complete matches, most recent first)
Watch out for
Chris Woakes was once described by Warwickshire's director of cricket and England selector, Ashley Giles, as the player he would most like to clone. The original uncloned version is still awaiting a chance in the series. He has the ability to balance up the side at No. 8 and deserves a home debut.
Coaches might value the reliability of players who allow them to sleep at night, but Mitchell Johnson might provide some welcome unpredictability for the spectators. Johnson has been told by Arthur to increase Australia's aggression, but he only has one game to do it and admitted he has no idea whether he can flick the switch.
Do not be surprised to see England rest one, or even two, frontline players for this final match ahead of the South Africa Test series.
England (possible) 1 Alastair Cook (capt), 2 Ian Bell, 3 Jonathan Trott, 4 Ravi Bopara, 5 Eoin Morgan, 6 Craig Kieswetter (wk), 7 Tim Bresnan, 8 Chris Woakes, 9 James Tredwell, 10 James Anderson, 11 Steven Finn
Matthew Wade will fill the vacancy created by Shane Watson's injury while Mitchell Starc could get a chance to bring his good form for Yorkshire onto the international stage.
Australia (possible) 1 Matthew Wade (wk), 2 Dave Warner, 3 Peter Forrest, 4 Michael Clarke (capt), 5 George Bailey, 6 David Hussey, 7 Steve Smith, 8 Mitchell Johnson, 9 Clint McKay, 10 James Pattinson, 11 Mitchell Starc
Stats and trivia
- England are looking for their 10th successive ODI win, but Graham Gooch, now England's batting coach, was captain when they won 11 in a row, a run which ended with defeat in the 1992 World Cup final although that included a no-result against Pakistan in the group stage.
- Stuart Broad needs two wickets to reach 150 in ODIs while Alastair Cook needs 20 runs to reach 2000.
- Australia have never lost four matches in a one-day series against England
"Everything for me is focused towards playing Test match cricket. But at the moment it is about taking the responsibility of opening the bowling for the one-day team and trying to thrive on it."
Steven Finn, England's fast bowler, wants a long-term spot in the Test team but is not getting carried away
"There's maybe a bit of fire missing in our one-day side. My role in the team is I want to have that fire in the belly, get really aggressive, show them that we're serious and get on top of them. It could take a few games, it might be the next game where it all switches back on for me."
Australia's enigma Mitchell Johnson wondering if he can switch on for the final game of the series.© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.