World Cup places up for grabs
Match FactsJanuary 16, Melbourne
Start time 14.20 (03.20 GMT)
The Big Picture
This match is being used to mark the 40th anniversary of one-day cricket, which began back on January 5, 1971 when Australia faced England at the MCG after the scheduled Test was abandoned due to rain. How times have changed. Floodlights, coloured clothes (and colour TV), white balls, Powerplays, HawkEye, the switch hit and much more. What hasn't changed, though, is Australia's desire to win and they haven't been doing a lot of it lately.
The Twenty20 victory on Friday was a welcome change of fortune and now the one-day series is the last chance to prepare before heading to the World Cup next month. But with the squads having to be named by January 19 in reality there is one game before the players will know their fate. Judging by the Australia selectors there are a few spots still up for grabs so there's plenty riding on performances at the MCG for the likes of David Hussey, Xavier Doherty and Shaun Tait.
England are a pretty settled unit after an upturn in their one-day form over the last 18 months. They will welcome back Andrew Strauss, who wasn't part of the Twenty20 squad, but he's the only change. James Anderson isn't around until the fourth match in Adelaide having popped home for a rest but Chris Woakes has already shown his ticker on his Twenty20 debut.
England's World Cup record since 1992, when they lost in the final against Pakistan, has been dire yet they are more than an outside bet this time. They beat Australia 3-2 during the English summer, which gave them some valuable hints for the Ashes, although they were rattled by the pace of Shaun Tait in the latter part of that contest. They won't want to concede any ground to Australia.
(completed matches, most recent first)
Watch out for...
David Hussey has only played 23 ODIs in his career, and he has one more chance now. A decade ago such batsmen were part and parcel of Australia cricket, the lost generation of Stuart Law, Jamie Cox, Martin Love and the like, but given their current problems it's amazing Hussey hasn't had more opportunities. With one match remaining before the World Cup, is it do or die, or are the selectors going to take him anyway? Runs on his home ground would certainly help.
It's easy to forget that Kevin Pietersen wasn't part of England's last one-day series after being dropped against Pakistan in August. He didn't take it well, as his Twitter outburst proved, but he'll come back in wanting to show that he's a central part of England's best 50-over side. In his absence, Eoin Morgan has cemented his standing as the matchwinner and both Jonathan Trott and Ian Bell have shown enough form to warrant an extended run, but Pietersen will be vital on the subcontinent.
Is this a World Cup shoot-out? The selectors want to have a look at a few players before naming their final squad but they won't learn much from one match. Mitchell Johnson and Peter Siddle have been rested, while Nathan Hauritz was never set to play this match according to Andrew Hilditch, the chairman of selectors. It might mean that Hauritz, who remains in Sydney for now, has already earned his World Cup place and the selectors want to have another look at Xavier Doherty.
Australia 1 Shane Watson, 2 Brad Haddin (wk), 3 Michael Clarke, 4 Cameron White, 5 David Hussey, 6 Michael Hussey, 7 Steven Smith, 8 Brett Lee, 9 Xavier Doherty, 10 Doug Bollinger, 11 Shaun Tait.
England know their best one-day team, but in the absence of James Anderson (rested) and Stuart Broad (injury) there will be a chance for a combination of Ajmal Shahzad, Chris Woakes and Chris Tremlett to enhance their claims. Andrew Strauss will be back to open and lead the side after his Twenty20 break and has been one England's most consistent one-day batsman recently. The in-form Ian Bell could slot in at No. 3 meaning Kevin Pietersen at four.
England (probable) 1 Andrew Strauss, 2 Steven Davies (wk), 3 Ian Bell, 4 Kevin Pietersen, 5 Paul Collingwood, 6 Eoin Morgan, 7 Michael Yardy, 8 Tim Bresnan, 9 Graeme Swann, 10 Chris Woakes, 11 Ajmal Shahzad.
Stats and trivia
- England haven't lost a one-day series since being beaten 6-1 by Australia after the 2009 Ashes. In that time they've beaten South Africa, Bangladesh (twice), Australia and Pakistan.
- The two teams have met 20 times at the MCG with Australia ahead 13-6 with one abandonment, although the most recent fixture was a win for England in 2007 when they took a 1-0 lead in CB Series finals.
- Andrew Strauss scored 806 runs at 57.57 from 14 matches in 2010
- In the last series between the two teams Shaun Tait returned for the last three matches and took eight wickets at 12.37.
"I see them as wicket-taking bowlers. It's not a bad problem to have when you have three strike bowlers in one squad."
Michael Clarke on juggling Brett Lee, Shaun Tait and Mitchell Johnson
"Momentum heading into the World Cup's crucial. Both sides will be very up for the series and to be thinking 'ah well, we won the Ashes' will take away from our intensity."
Andrew Strauss wants his side to start afresh for the one-dayers
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo