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January 20, 2011
The Big Picture
The first game at the MCG was the last chance for both teams to answer any selection queries before finalising their World Cup squads. And not everyone who played has made the cut - Steven Davies, Chris Tremlett and Xavier Doherty, for example. Now both teams can really begin their World Cup preparations in earnest.
Shane Watson's brilliant unbeaten 161 on Sunday gave Australia a 1-0 series lead, but the reality is that apart from Watson's innings, the rest of Australia's performance was no more than middling. Michael Clarke took up 57 balls and got out without hitting a boundary, and in the field his team allowed England to post nearly 300, with a few too many missed run-outs and stumpings and dropped catches. Australia's World Cup defence begins in just over a month, and they need to be working better as a unit instead of being carried by one magnificent individual effort.
Not that England can be very pleased with their display at the MCG, either. After 30 overs they'd posted 3 for 174, a position from which they should have reached well over 300. And their attack, without James Anderson, didn't look terribly threatening. They too need to hone their form ahead of the World Cup, and they'll do so in Hobart without Graeme Swann, who has a knee problem.
Both teams have been hit by fitness concerns, with Michael Hussey now at home in Perth after undergoing surgery on a serious hamstring injury he picked up while running a sharp two during the win at the MCG. The Australians are also without Mitchell Johnson, who has a throat infection and didn't fly to Hobart with the team. "He has improved in the last 24 hours and is expected to meet the team in Sydney on Saturday," the physio Alex Kountouris said.
Watch out for...
Remember Nathan Hauritz? He's that spinner Australia had been grooming for two years only to discard him on the eve of the Ashes in favour of a one-day specialist who failed to hold his place after two Tests. And now that one-day specialist, Xavier Doherty, has been cut from the limited-overs team, leaving Hauritz as the main man for the World Cup. He hasn't played for his country since November 5, and rest assured he wants to stick it to the selectors who didn't stick with him.
Like Hauritz, Matt Prior didn't play the opening ODI in Melbourne. Davies was the preferred gloveman, which was an odd choice given Prior's powerful striking and impressive form during the Ashes. But come World Cup selection time, England went with the experience of Prior, and as a result he's finished his Twenty20 stint with Victoria and flown to Hobart to join the one-day squad. He'll open the batting with Andrew Strauss, and the Australians know that if they don't get rid of Prior early, he could be a matchwinner.
Things have changed since the first match. Australia's World Cup squad has been settled, so Doherty has made way for Hauritz, but there are also a couple of other issues for Australia. Hussey's place in the middle order is likely to be filled by Shaun Marsh, who didn't make the World Cup squad but is a possible replacement if Hussey is ruled out of that tournament. And Johnson's throat infection should mean a place for Shaun Tait, who had back stiffness in Melbourne and was rested as a precaution.
Australia (probable) 1 Shane Watson, 2 Brad Haddin (wk), 3 Michael Clarke (capt), 4 Cameron White, 5 David Hussey, 6 Shaun Marsh, 7 Steven Smith, 8 Brett Lee, 9 Nathan Hauritz, 10 Doug Bollinger, 11 Shaun Tait.
Prior has come in to take the place of Davies, and it will be a straight swap at the top of the order. Swann will also miss out due to a knee injury, and his spot should be taken by James Tredwell, who is set to play his third one-day international. Paul Collingwood will have to wait for his chance to break back in to the side.
England (probable) 1 Andrew Strauss (capt), 2 Matt Prior (wk), 3 Jonathan Trott, 4 Kevin Pietersen, 5 Ian Bell, 6 Eoin Morgan, 7 Michael Yardy, 8 Tim Bresnan, 9 James Tredwell, 10 Chris Tremlett, 11 Ajmal Shahzad.
Stats and trivia
"We've got a lot of improvement to do, definitely, with the ball and in the field at the start of our innings especially."
"You look at Shane Watson in the last game getting 161 - it's a match-winning total. Those are the types of innings that all batsmen are looking to get and realising that their 40s, 50s and 60s don't win games."
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Brydon Coverdale
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