Australia search for that winning feeling
Match FactsJanuary 14, Melbourne
Start time 19.35 (08.35 GMT)
The Big Picture
Australia's one-wicket defeat in the opening Twenty20 of the two-match series summed up the season that Shane Watson and his team are having. The stand-out performer on either side, Watson added four wickets to his rollicking half-century and was named Man of the Match, but still ended up on the losing side as England squeezed home from the final ball. Such are the vicissitudes of Twenty20 cricket, where victory can often depend upon a slice of luck at the right moment. Australia's morale will not have been helped by yet another loss to add to their recent string of disappointments.
Wednesday's match in Adelaide had the air of a new beginning for Australia, with Cameron White taking over the leadership of the T20 side and Tim Paine acting as his deputy. There were also a few fresh faces, with Aaron Finch and Steve O'Keefe, and the return of a veteran in Brett Lee, but the changes weren't enough to secure the win Australia so desperately need. While they will hope for better in Melbourne on Friday, particularly from a sluggish middle order, England are developing a psychological hold over them that will be hard to shrug off.
The visitors are, of course, world champions in this format, but several members of the team have been relegated to the sidelines for much of the Australian tour. Ajmal Shahzad and Michael Yardy were still more than competent with the ball, however, and Eoin Morgan showed no rust whatsoever as he provided backbone to the middle-order with a fluent 43. It wasn't quite the same story with Steve Davies and Luke Wright, who survived a combined total of four deliveries, and it was left to a nerveless Chris Woakes - on England debut - to see the side home.
It is surely a challenge for both teams to maintain focus on the task at hand with a World Cup just over a month away, but England are on a successful roll and Australia are headed in the opposite direction. The harder task for the hosts might be to re-discover the self-belief that makes all the difference in closely-fought games.
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Watch out for...
Cameron White's tenure as Australia's fifth Twenty20 captain did not start ideally - making just 6 as his side slipped to a narrow defeat - but his brand of clean hitting could light up the MCG. He has had limited-overs success against England before and currently has more sixes than fours in Twenty20 cricket. A natural leader, he will be keen to stamp his authority on his first series in charge.
Steve Davies only faced two balls in Adelaide. It was enough to display both his classy strengths - natural timing and flair through the off side - and weaknesses - needlessly hitting the ball in the air. He is under pressure after Matt Prior's good showing in the Ashes but if he can find some luck early on he may take to Australia's pacey new-ball offerings.
Australia's power pack of vein-popping batsmen and fiery fast bowlers almost pulled off a win against England, which may be enough for White's side to stick with the formula. If there is a change it may be in Lee being replaced by the young fast bowler James Pattinson, who could start his career on his home ground in Melbourne.
Australia (possible) 1 David Warner, 2 Shane Watson, 3 Aaron Finch, 4 David Hussey, 5 Cameron White (capt), 6 Steven Smith, 7 Tim Paine (wk), 8 Mitchell Johnson, 9 Steve O'Keefe, 10 Brett Lee/James Pattinson, 11 Shaun Tait.
After clocking up another win, their eighth in a row, England will be in no mood to change. Especially as Ravi Bopara is not in the squad to challenge Luke Wright's position.
England (probable) 1 Ian Bell, 2 Steven Davies (wk), 3 Kevin Pietersen, 4 Paul Collingwood (capt), 5 Eoin Morgan, 6 Luke Wright, 7 Michael Yardy, 8 Tim Bresnan, 9 Chris Woakes, 10 Graeme Swann, 11 Ajmal Shahzad.
Stats and trivia
- If Australia lose again they will set a new team record for the most consecutive defeats in Twenty20 cricket. Though they still have some way to go before catching Bangladesh's unwelcome run, which currently stands at 12.
- Luke Wright's second-ball 0 gave him the unwanted joint title for most ducks in a Twenty20 career.
"Never in doubt."
Chris Woakes knew something we all didn't in that final over in Adelaide.
"When England needed a big shot they found it."
The same luck didn't apply to Cameron White's Australia
Sahil Dutta and Liam Brickhill are assistant editors at ESPNcricinfo