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June 7, 2013
Match factsSaturday, June 8, Edgbaston
"Australia in crisis" was how one respected English newspaper saw it after their disintegration against India in their final Champions Trophy warm-up. An irredeemable batting display saw them bowled out for 65 by India and, to make matters worse, the chronic back complaint that ruled their captain, Michael Clarke out of this match, has yet to respond to treatment. Whether it is really a crisis will become more apparent at Edgbaston on Saturday, but Australia, winners of the past two Champions Trophies, could certainly be in better shape.
Clarke therefore misses the first of 13 England v Australia clashes that will dominate a summer also containing five Tests, five ODIs and two T20s. He has not played a game since mid-March - the third Test against India - because of a weakness that has troubled him intermittently since he was 17, but he aggravated the condition on the long-haul flight from Australia. Australia should surely be looking for the best first-class flat beds they can find, even if the rest of the squad are put into cattle class.
George Bailey will stand in for Clarke with his usual affability. He can take consolation from the fact that the practice match against India will not appear in the official records because of the licence to play more than 11 players, and from a record which has seen Australia win their last six matches, including a 5-0 whitewash of West Indies.
England will find it a welcome change to be playing somebody different from New Zealand. They beat them 2-1 in New Zealand then lost by the same scoreline in England. It is time for a new challenge. It is not to decry New Zealand to observe that for many England fans the summer is about to begin for real.
Form guide(most recent first, last five completed games)
Watch out for...
Jos Buttler's explosive 16-ball 47 against New Zealand at Trent Bridge earlier this week was a further indication that England have unearthed potentially one of the most gifted T20 batsmen in the world. His strike-rate is already higher than any other England player - a couple of matches from Phil Mustard apart - and as George Dobell has revealed on these pages, his latest exploits came despite worrying personal circumstances.
Australian eyes will be on David Warner more than most. After becoming embroiled in a Twitterstorm with two Australian cricket writers over his involvement in IPL, he has made ducks in both warm-up matches. His latest tweets have been very non-controversial - he has even praised Birmingham in the sunshine.
England (probable): 1 Alastair Cook (capt), 2 Ian Bell, 3 Jonathan Trott, 4 Joe Root, 5 Eoin Morgan, 6 Jos Buttler (wk), 7 Tim Bresnan/Ravi Bopara, 8 Stuart Broad, 9 Graeme Swann, 10 Steven Finn, 11 James Anderson
Australia (probable): 1 Shane Watson, 2 David Warner, 3 Phil Hughes, 4 George Bailey (capt), 5 Adam Voges, 6 Mitchell Marsh, 7 Matthew Wade (wk), 8 James Faulkner, 9 Mitchell Johnson, 10 Mitchell Starc, 11 Clint McKay
Pitch and conditions
England is enjoying one of its most settled spells of summer weather in recent years and it is set to continue over the weekend. That could negate the threat of two new balls as batting conditions are more comfortable than anticipated. The quicker bowlers will have to wait for more unsettled weather until the early part of next week, especially in Cardiff.
Stats and trivia
"In the past, our best was certainly the best in the world. If Australia played their best, no one could match them. And if they had an off day it was only just an off day. That's going to be our challenge for this tournament. I think the perception is we don't have that calibre of player. So out of that comes the opportunity to prove people wrong."
George Bailey, Australia's captain
"You're not going to be remembered for what happened in the warm‑up games. You're going to be remembered for what happens in the actual tournament."
England captain Alastair Cook when asked about Australia's batting collapse against India.
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