Australia target historic whitewash
Match factsSunday, September 20, 2009
Start time 10.15 (9.15 GMT)
England are on the brink of an unwanted piece of history. No team has ever been whitewashed in a seven-match series and the fragile team faces a huge challenge to stave off Australia at Chester-le-Street. The margins have grown bigger throughout the series, reaching embarrassing levels at Trent Bridge when they were hammered by 111 runs on Thursday. Only the greatest optimist would give them a chance of claiming the final game.
Australia have moved though the gears impressively during the series with different players performing key roles in each game. Three days ago it was the turn of Tim Paine to make his mark with a maiden international hundred as he proves a more-than-able deputy for Brad Haddin. However, the difference between the sides was highlighted by Ricky Ponting's fielding, as the Australian captain twice pulling off stunning direct hits to remove Matt Prior and Ravi Bopara.
This match marks the end of England's longest home international season, which started way back on May 6 against West Indies. There has been the one major success in the summer of regaining the Ashes, but more than a fair share of shockers as well, including a Twenty20 defeat to Netherlands, the two-and-a-half day thrashing at Headingley and now these one-dayers. Victory here would only be the smallest crumb of comfort, but the beleaguered Andrew Strauss would accept anything right now.
And the day after this game is finished, both sides fly to South Africa for the Champions Trophy. The season is drawing to a close, but cricket doesn't stop.
(last five matches, most recent first)
England - LLLLL
Australia - WWWWW
Watch out for...
Andrew Strauss has been angry after England's last two defeats, first seething about poor fielding and then a horrendous batting performance. He was booed at the post-match presentation, which was harsh on the captain but a reflection of the public's view of how the team has played. Strauss, though, has shown his resilience many times over the last 12 months. If anyone has the mental strength to pull out one performance, Strauss does.
Brett Lee has been the bowler of the series, striking with the new and old ball to put major dents in England's nervous batting order. There is always something happening when Lee bowls, ranging from flying stumps, boundaries and the occasional free hit. He is a great weapon for a captain to have and has the luxury of being an out-and-out strike bowler, something England have severely lacked during this series. He missed one game when he rested under Australia's rotation policy, but has shown outstanding form ahead of the Champions Trophy.
It's hard to know what England can do. They are tied to this squad because these are the players selected for the Champions Trophy, but one by one they are all losing confidence. Bopara looks shot at No. 3 while Owais Shah continues to frustrate. Paul Collingwood is back after his break so he could replace one of those in the middle order, while Graham Onions is surely due his ODI debut. He can't exactly do much worse than what has gone before him.
England (possible) 1 Andrew Strauss (capt), 2 Joe Denly, 3 Matt Prior (wk), 4 Owais Shah, 5 Paul Collingwood, 6 Eoin Morgan, 7 Dimitri Mascarenhas, 8 Graeme Swann, 9 Tim Bresnan, 10 James Anderson, 11 Graham Onions.
Ponting has said that Australia are likely to field their strongest side for this final match after resting players under the rotation system. Therefore Michael Clarke should return along with Mitchell Johnson, which means James Hopes could miss out despite his 38 off 22 balls and three wickets at Trent Bridge.
Australia (probable) 1 Shane Watson, 2 Tim Paine (wk), 3 Ricky Ponting (capt), 4 Michael Clarke, 5 Callum Ferguson, 6 Michael Hussey, 7 Cameron White, 8 Mitchell Johnson, 9 Brett Lee, 10 Nathan Hauritz, 11 Nathan Bracken.
Pitch and conditions
The series finishes at the northern-most first-class ground in England, which is a risk in mid-September but the forecast suggests a fine day. The Chester-le-Street pitch has produced some high-scoring one-day games this season and batsman can score quickly once they get set.
Stats and trivia
- These two teams have met in one previous ODI at Chester-le-Street, in 2005, when Australia won by 57 runs. Shane Watson was spooked by the ghosts of Lumley Castle, and Darren Gough didn't let him forget.
- The top five wicket-takers in the series are Australian, before James Anderson sneaks in at No. 6 with six wickets.
- Ponting requires 37 runs to usurp Inzamam-ul-Haq as the third highest all-time run-scorer in ODIs.
"Obviously we don't want to lose 7-0. There'll be a lot of pride to play for on Sunday. We're very disappointed with the way we've played in this series, we've never really clicked as a team."
James Anderson tries to stir England, but it's not quite a once-more-unto-the-breach speech.
"It's been great to be spending a bit more time at this level and getting comfortable with big crowds and all that sort of stuff. I haven't thought too much of what will happen when Brad returns, but for now I'm just concentrating on enjoying playing for my country."
Tim Paine knows he's a stand-in, but is enjoying every moment of his experience
Andrew McGlashan is assistant editor of Cricinfo