Familiar foes face off for the final
Friday, October 2, 2009
Start time 2:30 pm, 12:30 GMT
It's battle rejoined. Just in case there hadn't been enough of England facing Australia in recent months, the semi-final of the Champions Trophy has thrown together a rematch. There shouldn't be much these two sides don't know about each other, but the intrigue of this meeting is that it's a straight knockout. Most expected Australia to be here, but few imagined England would still be in the tournament.
For a while it looked as though Australia would blow their chance of progressing as the batting came to a screeching halt in their chase against Pakistan. However, Brett Lee and Nathan Hauritz did just enough - Australia were through when they levelled scores off the penultimate ball - and another meeting with the old enemy was an added bonus.
Australia will bring with them memories of the 6-1 win in the recent one-day series, while England will say that result doesn't matter anymore. "We thrashed them the last time we played them," said Graeme Swann, England's team joker. The truth, as is often the case, lies somewhere in the middle. Australia clearly have the upper hand in recent contests, but England's resurgence since arriving in South Africa means they have a good chance of extracting revenge.
England may secretly be relieved that Australia scrambled the final bye, which meant they wouldn't have to face Pakistan's mixture of spin and reverse swing on a slow, wearing Centurion pitch. Not that Australia's attack will be easy, but at least there won't be any of the unknown. In fact, it's just the opposite. The teams probably know each other a little too well at the moment.
(last five completed matches, most recent first)
England - LWWWL
Australia - WNWLW
Though Matt Prior took part in training on Thursday, he was still feeling the effects of his virus, and England have received ICC permission to replace him in their squad with Worcestershire's Steven Davies, who flew into South Africa as cover last week. England also have concerns over Stuart Broad, who has a torn buttock muscle. He went for a scan and appeared in discomfort while the team trained in Centurion. If he misses out it will probably mean a recall for Graham Onions, but the loss of Broad's batting could allow Adil Rashid into the mix, especially given the spin-friendly conditions. Rashid may come into the permutations anyway as a replacement for Luke Wright.
England (probable): 1 Andrew Strauss (capt), 2 Joe Denly, 3 Owais Shah, 4 Paul Collingwood, 5 Eoin Morgan, 6 Steven Davies (wk), 7 Luke Wright, 8 Stuart Broad, 9 Graeme Swann, 10 Ryan Sidebottom, 11 James Anderson.
David Hussey has been called into the squad, but it would be asking a lot for him to play straight away. Australia are likely to retain the balance they used against Pakistan and will know what to expect from conditions.
Australia (probable) 1 Shane Watson, 2 Tim Paine (wk), 3 Ricky Ponting (capt), 4 Michael Hussey, 5 Callum Ferguson, 6 Cameron White, 7 James Hopes, 8 Mitchell Johnson, 9 Brett Lee, 10 Nathan Hauritz, 11 Peter Siddle.
Watch out for...
It was Graeme Swann who enabled England to save face in the home series when he took 5 for 28 at Chester-le-Street and this could be the match where he comes into his own in this event. So far England's quicks have done the damage, but if the Australia-Pakistan match is any indication spin is going to play a key role. Swann relishes the battle and has had plenty of success in recent months while Australia continue to have a dodgy record against offspin.
Brett Lee was outstanding during the series in England where he hit top speed and swung both the old and new ball. He will feel he has a hold over the English top order and provides Ricky Ponting with a strike weapon at any stage of the innings. Reverse swing was evident in the Pakistan match and if there's one bowler capable of exploiting the movement it is Lee.
Pitch and conditions
England scored 323 on an excellent batting surface against South Africa, but the pitch for the previous game between Australia and Pakistan was a tough one for run-scoring. The thunderstorms have stayed away since the Australia-India game and the last thing a semi-final needs is rain.
Stats and trivia
- Just in case anyone forgot - because it was a long time ago - Australia beat England 6-1 in the series that finished two weeks ago.
- However, the last time these two met in a global semi-final England came out on top in the 2004 Champions Trophy, at Edgbaston, where the home side eased to a six-wicket win. Michael Vaughan believed that result laid the base for the following year's Ashes victory
- Australia, though, can point to the last Champions Trophy, in India, when they cruised to a six-wicket victory in Jaipur during the qualifying stages. England produced one of their well-rehearsed batting collapses as they fell from 83 without loss to 169 all out.
"England are playing some pretty good cricket of late, but we know their strengths and weaknesses and have been able to exploit them in the past. Now it is a matter of doing that again."
Ricky Ponting and his players are familiar with the opposition after spending the summer in England.
Andrew McGlashan is assistant editor of Cricinfo