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January 15, 2011
Andrew Strauss, the England captain, has admitted that the proximity of the World Cup poses a different set of challenges ahead of the seven-match one-day series against Australia both in terms of selection and preparation.
These upcoming matches offer both sides their last serious chance to fine-tune ahead of the global event, but conditions over the next three weeks will be very different to those presented on the subcontinent. There is also the tricky situation regarding selection because some members of England's squad for this series won't feature at the World Cup and the final 15 is named following the first ODI.
James Anderson is currently resting at home and will return for the fourth ODI at Adelaide and Stuart Broad, another certainty for World Cup selection, is recovering from the stomach strain that ruled him out of the final three Ashes Tests. Broad is on course to make the World Cup which means up to three of the players on duty in Australia will know by next week that they aren't needed in February.
"The first thing to say is it's a slightly awkward situation where you have to announce a World Cup squad after the first game of a seven-game series," Strauss said. "It makes things tricky for everyone. But the guys have an opportunity to represent their country. Whether they are part of that World Cup squad or not, what they do now will have an effect on whether they play in the future. It's very simple: if they can play, take it with both hands. If you're not part of the 15, make sure you're ready to go when it finishes."
The other testing situation for Strauss and the England management is that the conditions the team will face in Australia won't replicate the surfaces or weather of India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka although the slow Melbourne pitch for the second Twenty20 gave a hint at what could be on the cards.
"One of the thing we're conscious of is the conditions in Australia are very different to the subcontinent," Strauss said. "Some of our practice and training has got to be tailored towards this series and some of it towards heading forward as well. That doesn't mean we're not here to win this series as that's the most important thing."
Strauss has returned to the helm following the Twenty20s were he wasn't involved and the man who captained in his absence, Paul Collingwood, continues to find himself in a serious form slump. His lack of runs in the Ashes persuaded him to retire from Test cricket and in the two T20s he made 16 and 6. However, he remains a key part of England's one-day plans, not least because of his useful bowling, and Strauss knows he has bounced back before, including four years ago in Australia with back-to-back hundreds during the triangular series.
"He's been a bit out of touch in the Test matches. But it's a very different form of the game. His record in one-day cricket over the last year has been very good," Strauss said. "He brings a lot to the side apart from his batting - but his batting's crucial to us. We're expecting him to come back strong. He's a strong character and a resilient bloke. And there have been plenty of incidences in the past where he has come back with a bang - not least four years ago."
England, though, aren't short of batting options. Kevin Pietersen wasn't part of their last 50-over success against Pakistan and both Ian Bell and Jonathan Trott have staked their claims for permanent positions. Although all three could make the World Cup squad, somebody will have to miss out in the final eleven.
"Kevin Pietersen's back in the squad and we all know what he can bring to the one-day team. Someone's got to miss out out of the batsmen," Strauss said. "It will be a tough call but I think that's a good position to be in. They all bring different attributes to their game - you have to include Paul Collingwood in the mix as well - and we have to decide what's the best use of those attributes in Australia and at the World Cup as well."
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