Australia v England, 1st ODI, Melbourne January 15, 2011

Teams heading in opposite directions

With a World Cup around the corner there is plenty at stake for Australia and England; two teams enjoyed changing fortunes
15

For the past 15 years the World Cup has been remembered very differently by Australia and England. For one it has been a stage to show their supremacy with a hat-trick of titles and the other has frozen at the earliest sight of a challenge, often becoming an embarrassment. However, as the teams prepare for this seven-match series, which acts as their final preparation for the February tournament, the fortunes of the sides are changing.

England are team on the up, in all formats of the game, having retained the Ashes in style, set a world record for consecutive Twenty20 wins and emerged from their one-day slumber with renewed aggression. Australia, while still retaining the No. 1 one-day ranking, have struggled for the past 12 months, losing limited-overs series against England, India and Sri Lanka. The next three weeks will give an indication as to whether the curves will continue in a similar direction even though conditions will be very different on the subcontinent.

Some bookmakers have Australia as favourites to take the one-day series but England should feel confident of claiming another scalp. There is symmetry to this upcoming contest because the corresponding seven games after the 2009 Ashes was England's last series defeat in any format, when they were humbled 6-1.

That was a watershed time for the England one-day team. Andy Flower and Andrew Strauss realised something drastic was needed to haul the side from the lower reaches of the one-day rankings, where they sometimes nestled above only Bangladesh and Zimbabwe. Their inhibited approach, partly to blame on English conditions that reward conservatism against the white ball, had long-since become outdated.

The players were told to believe in themselves and in return the management would trust them. The first clear signs of the new strategy were on show at the Champions Trophy in late September 2009, just a matter of days after the 6-1 drubbing was complete. Nobody expected England to escape their group, however they beat Sri Lanka and South Africa to reach the semi-finals where they met Australia. They were hammered by nine wickets, but tellingly it was the last time Australia had any hold over them.

The fearless approach to batting started with Paul Collingwood attacking Sri Lanka in Johannesburg, then continued with Owais Shah, no longer part of the set-up, hitting 98, and Eoin Morgan's 67 off 34 balls against South Africa. Morgan has been vital to the team's resurgence, bringing inventiveness, power and confidence to free up the rest of the order. The World Cup can be his stage and it was a sign of his talent that, despite barely playing any cricket since September, he could hit 43 off 33 balls in the opening Twenty20 in Adelaide.

Morgan has played match-winning knocks in all of England's recent one-day successes, including hundreds against Bangladesh, Australia and Pakistan, taking over the mantle of the team's key limited-overs player from Kevin Pietersen. Pietersen was dropped for the last series, against Pakistan, and will want to re-establish his credentials but with an in-form Ian Bell and consistent Jonathan Trott there is plenty of healthy competition.

Strauss's role, too, must not be underestimated and in 2010 he scored 806 runs at 57.57. Those numbers, plus innings such as his Gabba hundred and agenda-setting 60 off 58 balls at the SCG, show how his game has evolved and he's fully worth his place in the batting line-up. There remains a spot for an innings anchor, even in the 21st century version of one-day cricket.

England, as has been their style of meticulous planning, are probably sure of their World Cup 15, which has to be named by January 19, after the opening ODI in Melbourne, with just the fitness of Stuart Broad to keep tabs on. However, there remains far more uncertainty in the Australia camp, and they are treating the Melbourne match has a final chance for players to impress.

David Hussey, 33, has been given a last-minute opportunity to earn selection having played his most recent ODI against Scotland in August 2009, while the spinners Xavier Doherty and Nathan Haurtiz are back in the mix along with Brett Lee and Doug Bollinger. In previous years Australia have not left final decisions so late, but life isn't as easy for them these days.

The feeling is that they want to stack their team with pure quick bowlers, including Shaun Tait, but that will be a risky option on the subcontinent. Tait was a revelation at the 2007 World Cup in West Indies with 23 wickets, but he operated alongside the economical Glenn McGrath and Nathan Bracken. The runs-per-over of Lee and Mitchell Johnson is likely to be high, so the spinners and Shane Watson will need to use the seven matches against England to adapt to holding roles.

Injuries have not helped Australia's planning. Clint McKay, the Victoria pace bowler, has been ruled out with a stress fracture and joins Ryan Harris on the sidelines. They would both have been major contenders for the final 15. The captain, Ricky Ponting, is also missing for the series with the finger injury he picked up in the Perth Test and which ruled him out of Sydney. Michael Clarke will lead the side and it's hardly ideal to have a stand-in captain so close to major tournament.

It remains to be seen whether Ponting is Australia's captain when they next play Tests in August, but the chance of four consecutive World Cup titles remains a huge motivation for him. Given their recent record you wouldn't think they have much of a chance, but in the lead-up to the 2007 competition they lost the CB Series finals against England and got beaten 3-0 by New Zealand.

Criticism started about over-training and fatigue, but the sight of that gold trophy brought the best out of Australia, who completed their second consecutive unbeaten World Cup. With the structure of the 2011 tournament they should make the quarter-finals, then it's three wins for the main prize. First, though, they'll be desperate to ensure England don't secure another piece of silverware against them.

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Meety on January 16, 2011, 23:49 GMT

    @Something_Witty - I actually think that D Hussey may have a role as a bowling allrounder batting @ say#7 or #8? He bowled well yesterday & was preferred over Smith & O'Keefe in the T20s. @KURUWITA & whitesXI - don't agree. Superficially you have a pretty good case, however - this strategy by Oz has been their recipe for about 5 years. We have won tournaments in India - the 2007 WC was played on low slow WINDIES pitches. Good pace bowling can win Oz the 2011 WC. The first part of the equation I think is solved - Lee was blistering. MJ's 3rd spell of 4 overs was quite tight - I think he has got a ticket to India. The 3rd piece of the equation really comes down to Bollinger v Tait. Tait was in the main good in the T20s - (except for that stupid wide that went for 4). Bollinger I thought was 10km below his normal speed & didn't do anything. I'm leaning towards Tait. Everyone expects Oz to fail - so may as well run with our strengths.

  • bjg62 on January 16, 2011, 11:37 GMT

    Goodhoot, You're perfectly correct except for one thing.... Andrew Hilditch goes first then James Sutherland!

  • on January 16, 2011, 9:16 GMT

    Swann is a very good bowler. Perhaps the best offie England has produced since Jim Laker, But he is bound to get hammered by the Asian Giants during the upcoming WC 2011. Eager to see how he fares against Sachin, Youni Khan, Sangakkara.

  • johntycodes on January 16, 2011, 6:46 GMT

    Gee yeah australia was flogged in that one day "series" against india 1-0

  • goodhoot on January 16, 2011, 6:07 GMT

    Haddin 3 stumpings gone begging,Doherty lazy throw to miss a run out,Brett Lee taking wickets with no balls after 15 years as an international cricketer,Johnson bowling his usual garbage that he can't hit the pitch with on a regular basis,I've seen better efforts from a Perth 4th grade team who at least took some pride in their onfield efforts.Heads must roll,James Sutherland yours first please

  • on January 16, 2011, 0:06 GMT

    The bigger question is, will anyone watch these boring and meaningless ODI's?

  • chickenpoo on January 15, 2011, 21:54 GMT

    Australia winning the world cup lies totally in Watson, if he fires then Australia will win no doubt. Australia's bowling line up always seems prone to fail, and the middle order batsmen are always all out of form.

  • indiancooleo on January 15, 2011, 17:53 GMT

    why cant Eoin Morgan take wicket keeper position and add 1 more batsman(trott)

  • landl47 on January 15, 2011, 16:05 GMT

    England's weakness is that they don't have a genuine all-rounder. They have a lot of batsmen and a lot of 8s and 9s, but a #6 who is also a front-line bowler is missing. That means they have to weaken their batting side. Only 3 out of Bell, Trott, Morgan and Collingwood can play, and the weakest batsman of those, Collingwood, is the only one who can fill in reliably as a bowler. With Davies, the wicket-keeper, opening, that makes the batting too thin for my liking. England will only do well if they can bowl well enough to keep the opposition to a reasonable total. They managed that extremely well in the T20 World Cup, where no side made 150 against them. Australia haven't got anyone to bowl tight with the pace off the ball and in the sub-continent that's a critical weakeness.

  • Something_Witty on January 15, 2011, 11:05 GMT

    Who said Christian would have to bowl? He's good enough to play purely as a batsman in ODI's and t20s.

  • Meety on January 16, 2011, 23:49 GMT

    @Something_Witty - I actually think that D Hussey may have a role as a bowling allrounder batting @ say#7 or #8? He bowled well yesterday & was preferred over Smith & O'Keefe in the T20s. @KURUWITA & whitesXI - don't agree. Superficially you have a pretty good case, however - this strategy by Oz has been their recipe for about 5 years. We have won tournaments in India - the 2007 WC was played on low slow WINDIES pitches. Good pace bowling can win Oz the 2011 WC. The first part of the equation I think is solved - Lee was blistering. MJ's 3rd spell of 4 overs was quite tight - I think he has got a ticket to India. The 3rd piece of the equation really comes down to Bollinger v Tait. Tait was in the main good in the T20s - (except for that stupid wide that went for 4). Bollinger I thought was 10km below his normal speed & didn't do anything. I'm leaning towards Tait. Everyone expects Oz to fail - so may as well run with our strengths.

  • bjg62 on January 16, 2011, 11:37 GMT

    Goodhoot, You're perfectly correct except for one thing.... Andrew Hilditch goes first then James Sutherland!

  • on January 16, 2011, 9:16 GMT

    Swann is a very good bowler. Perhaps the best offie England has produced since Jim Laker, But he is bound to get hammered by the Asian Giants during the upcoming WC 2011. Eager to see how he fares against Sachin, Youni Khan, Sangakkara.

  • johntycodes on January 16, 2011, 6:46 GMT

    Gee yeah australia was flogged in that one day "series" against india 1-0

  • goodhoot on January 16, 2011, 6:07 GMT

    Haddin 3 stumpings gone begging,Doherty lazy throw to miss a run out,Brett Lee taking wickets with no balls after 15 years as an international cricketer,Johnson bowling his usual garbage that he can't hit the pitch with on a regular basis,I've seen better efforts from a Perth 4th grade team who at least took some pride in their onfield efforts.Heads must roll,James Sutherland yours first please

  • on January 16, 2011, 0:06 GMT

    The bigger question is, will anyone watch these boring and meaningless ODI's?

  • chickenpoo on January 15, 2011, 21:54 GMT

    Australia winning the world cup lies totally in Watson, if he fires then Australia will win no doubt. Australia's bowling line up always seems prone to fail, and the middle order batsmen are always all out of form.

  • indiancooleo on January 15, 2011, 17:53 GMT

    why cant Eoin Morgan take wicket keeper position and add 1 more batsman(trott)

  • landl47 on January 15, 2011, 16:05 GMT

    England's weakness is that they don't have a genuine all-rounder. They have a lot of batsmen and a lot of 8s and 9s, but a #6 who is also a front-line bowler is missing. That means they have to weaken their batting side. Only 3 out of Bell, Trott, Morgan and Collingwood can play, and the weakest batsman of those, Collingwood, is the only one who can fill in reliably as a bowler. With Davies, the wicket-keeper, opening, that makes the batting too thin for my liking. England will only do well if they can bowl well enough to keep the opposition to a reasonable total. They managed that extremely well in the T20 World Cup, where no side made 150 against them. Australia haven't got anyone to bowl tight with the pace off the ball and in the sub-continent that's a critical weakeness.

  • Something_Witty on January 15, 2011, 11:05 GMT

    Who said Christian would have to bowl? He's good enough to play purely as a batsman in ODI's and t20s.

  • whitesXI on January 15, 2011, 10:45 GMT

    Completely agree KURUWITA, the aussie quicks are potential winners on home soil, not as effective on the slower wickets. This should also be why Hauritz needs to be in the aussie squad, doherty has never played on these foreign of wickets and could be in for a shock. Aussies will also miss McKay's change of pace, wrong moment to be injured. That said Australia remain no. 1 in this format for a reason while they fall in test ranking, never right us off we love the under dog status just as much as world champs tag line

  • LALITHKURUWITA on January 15, 2011, 10:01 GMT

    Conditions and pitches are different in SL, IND, BAN. Poms are settled with 2 spinners, but Aussies. Poms have a better chance than Aussies to win world cup if they can pass SL & IND. 2 spinners plus slow wobbly bobbly bowlers are a must to win this world cup.

  • whitesXI on January 15, 2011, 9:54 GMT

    Ther's no point adding christian to a bowling attack that includes watto and three quicks. I think hussey has been picked more for his handy bowling than anything else. I don't like selectors picking him so late, this ODI series should be for cementing a squad, not a trial to determine potential

  • jedoralive on January 15, 2011, 7:49 GMT

    Agreed. Dan Christian, Callum Ferguson and Tim Paine (as well as Brad Haddin) should all be playing for Australia at the moment. Give them the experience. The World Cup is going to be very tough to win with the current group considering the talent in the opposition ranks. Pick some of the above guys and give them the opportunity to be the young underdogs. If the selectors want to select a veteran it should be Brad Hodge - for his record, consistency etc etc... It even feels stupid to say that now. It's so obvious.

  • Something_Witty on January 15, 2011, 5:35 GMT

    Why David Hussey? Why?? There are tons of much younger batsmen with more potential, all of whom are in far better form at the moment than Hussey. Ugh. Also, any word on Dan Christian and whether he will be in the squad/side? He should be, certainly he should be in ahead of Hussey.

  • No featured comments at the moment.

  • Something_Witty on January 15, 2011, 5:35 GMT

    Why David Hussey? Why?? There are tons of much younger batsmen with more potential, all of whom are in far better form at the moment than Hussey. Ugh. Also, any word on Dan Christian and whether he will be in the squad/side? He should be, certainly he should be in ahead of Hussey.

  • jedoralive on January 15, 2011, 7:49 GMT

    Agreed. Dan Christian, Callum Ferguson and Tim Paine (as well as Brad Haddin) should all be playing for Australia at the moment. Give them the experience. The World Cup is going to be very tough to win with the current group considering the talent in the opposition ranks. Pick some of the above guys and give them the opportunity to be the young underdogs. If the selectors want to select a veteran it should be Brad Hodge - for his record, consistency etc etc... It even feels stupid to say that now. It's so obvious.

  • whitesXI on January 15, 2011, 9:54 GMT

    Ther's no point adding christian to a bowling attack that includes watto and three quicks. I think hussey has been picked more for his handy bowling than anything else. I don't like selectors picking him so late, this ODI series should be for cementing a squad, not a trial to determine potential

  • LALITHKURUWITA on January 15, 2011, 10:01 GMT

    Conditions and pitches are different in SL, IND, BAN. Poms are settled with 2 spinners, but Aussies. Poms have a better chance than Aussies to win world cup if they can pass SL & IND. 2 spinners plus slow wobbly bobbly bowlers are a must to win this world cup.

  • whitesXI on January 15, 2011, 10:45 GMT

    Completely agree KURUWITA, the aussie quicks are potential winners on home soil, not as effective on the slower wickets. This should also be why Hauritz needs to be in the aussie squad, doherty has never played on these foreign of wickets and could be in for a shock. Aussies will also miss McKay's change of pace, wrong moment to be injured. That said Australia remain no. 1 in this format for a reason while they fall in test ranking, never right us off we love the under dog status just as much as world champs tag line

  • Something_Witty on January 15, 2011, 11:05 GMT

    Who said Christian would have to bowl? He's good enough to play purely as a batsman in ODI's and t20s.

  • landl47 on January 15, 2011, 16:05 GMT

    England's weakness is that they don't have a genuine all-rounder. They have a lot of batsmen and a lot of 8s and 9s, but a #6 who is also a front-line bowler is missing. That means they have to weaken their batting side. Only 3 out of Bell, Trott, Morgan and Collingwood can play, and the weakest batsman of those, Collingwood, is the only one who can fill in reliably as a bowler. With Davies, the wicket-keeper, opening, that makes the batting too thin for my liking. England will only do well if they can bowl well enough to keep the opposition to a reasonable total. They managed that extremely well in the T20 World Cup, where no side made 150 against them. Australia haven't got anyone to bowl tight with the pace off the ball and in the sub-continent that's a critical weakeness.

  • indiancooleo on January 15, 2011, 17:53 GMT

    why cant Eoin Morgan take wicket keeper position and add 1 more batsman(trott)

  • chickenpoo on January 15, 2011, 21:54 GMT

    Australia winning the world cup lies totally in Watson, if he fires then Australia will win no doubt. Australia's bowling line up always seems prone to fail, and the middle order batsmen are always all out of form.

  • on January 16, 2011, 0:06 GMT

    The bigger question is, will anyone watch these boring and meaningless ODI's?