Australia v England, 1st ODI, Melbourne January 10, 2014

Important series for Test wannabes

Vithushan Ehantharajah
Far from an afterthought after an Ashes drubbing, this ODI series holds great importance for several players striving for five-day cricket

Watching Chris Rogers's two-step as Australia brought their 5-0 Ashes success to the masses congregated at the Sydney Opera House went some way to highlighting the shift in moods between the two camps.

As the usually publicly reserved opening batsman was coaxed by Peter Siddle into a display of fleet-footed showmanship that seems a world away from his battle-weary arm guard, a handful of England players were already slumping back to the UK.

For those few not required for the limited-overs leg of this tour, the chance to relax will be a godsend. Whether Andy Flower and Kevin Pietersen can indulge fully in that luxury remains to be seen.

For those still here, the opportunity to restore credibility to the team and themselves should not be understated. In the next 15 months, limited-overs cricket will dominate the senses, with the World T20 coming up in March and then the World Cup in 2015, hosted in Australia and New Zealand.

The opportunity to play a more instinctive form of the game might be just the remedy for cluttered minds. Michael Carberry and Alastair Cook could benefit immeasurably from the freedom that comes with batting in the first Powerplay, with only two fielders allowed outside the 30-yard circle, to show their critics they are perfectly capable of playing the part of shot-callers rather than stallers. Boyd Rankin and Steven Finn may also be aided by those same fielding restrictions, which simplify a bowler's plans by cutting down their options with constrained margins.

For the fashionably late ones to the touring party, their presence during Friday's training session at the MCG was noticeable (the smiles gave them away).

Jos Buttler smashed and lap-swept the local net bowlers, much to the amusement of Cook, who spent the last part of the session watching things from afar. For all Buttler's ingenuity, it's his glove work that will be watched closely after Matt Prior was dropped for the fourth Test and Jonny Bairstow filled in inadequately.

England's batting woes over the last two months will mean performances in the upcoming one day matches will carry more weight than before, as comfort and solutions are sought. 'A' teams have their value, and while every England player has a handful of Lions caps packed away in a drawer next to some old keys and a couple of use batteries, it is in sustained ODI form that the loudest statements are made; statements that are not just limited to those yet to experience the unforgiving nature of Test cricket.

Ravi Bopara, England's ODI Player of the Year for 2013, will look to continue his ascension back into Test reckoning, since his last appearance against South Africa in July 2012. The last year has seen him engineer a massive turnaround in fortunes thanks to his exploits with the white ball.

He began the year out of the side, missing tours of India and New Zealand. He was also snubbed in the 2013 IPL auction, leading many to write him off as a spent force at just 27 years-old. But a recall to the squad for the Champions Trophy and a defined role in the lower middle order as finisher and fill-in bowler saw him finish the competition with 118 runs at a strike rate of 137.20, six wickets while conceding just 5.5 runs an over and a renewed sense of clarity.

By the end of the summer, he had scored 317 runs at 52.83 (a career high average for a calendar year) including a maiden one-day hundred against Ireland at Malahide. On that sunny September day, he was one half of a record fifth-wicket stand in ODIs. His partner, Eoin Morgan, who recorded an unbeaten century of his own and captained England to a six wicket win, finds himself in a trickier position, despite appearing the more stable of the two.

Dropped in the UAE as England fumbled in the dust against Pakistan in 2012, Morgan lost his central contract in November - replaced on England's full-time list by Joe Root. Morgan has consistently reiterated his desire to break back into the Test side, but his actions seem to suggest otherwise. Since his axing, he has played just nine first-class matches, something which has aggrieved Middlesex supporters, who have only seen him don their whites for seven of them.

His desire to spend the first part of the county season in India for the IPL has been a black mark against him, particularly in 2012 when he spent the entirety of the Kolkata Knight Riders' campaign on the bench.

But rather than go through the motions and pick up the cheque, he used the state of the art facilities and world class help on offer to him to rectify the same technical deficiency - an ungainly "crouch" that gave him extra punch but a moving head - that lost him his England place.

That England have now moved their international season back to accommodate the IPL will allow both Morgan and Bopara to take part in the event.

If they choose to do so, it's these next five matches against an Australian side enjoying a full-blooded renaissance during what seems like English cricket's greatest moment of trauma that will help them state a convincing case. Again.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Mashuq on January 12, 2014, 8:56 GMT

    @Cpt.Meanster on (January 10, 2014, 22:51 GMT) Given the quality of your posts (usually quite high) your disingenuous misrepresentation of recent history beggars belief: "Aussies will be fired up for sure. Even though they got hammered in India recently, they will have serious confidence to face up to England." So exactly how does a 2-3 defeat constitute a "hammering"? Your animus against Australia once more betrayed!

  • david on January 12, 2014, 6:57 GMT

    Quality players can excel in any given format. Some are more suitable for one of the other. Morgan and Bopara seem more suitable for 1-day cricket.

  • rob on January 11, 2014, 12:42 GMT

    @ Cpt.Meanster : I take your point about the OD WC being more prestigous than the Ashes. I agree that the WC is more important than the T20 WC as well. The only point I disagree on is the WC being the pinnacle of cricket. I think the #1 position on the test table is the pinnacle. .. They even have a fancy trophy for it called "The Mace". .. I'll admit I'm a bit of an oldie these days, but I'd take the mace over the world cup. Then Id take the wc. Then I'd take the Ashes, the Border-Gavaskar and the SA equivalent (name escapes me) then the T20 WC. .. That doesn't mean I don't like T20 because I do. Watched a great game tonight in the Big Bash (Stars V Heat) and it was close.

    I just love Tests mate. What can I say. Each to their own I suppose.

  • Raad on January 11, 2014, 2:14 GMT

    Previously, those selected in Test matches based on ODI format (Eoin Morgan, Ravi Bopara, George Bailey, Mohammad Hafeez, etc.) have shown that two formats are totally different and ODI form seldom converts to Test form. I hope England will not repeat its mistake of promoting ODI specialists to their Test team that is already in shambles.

  • Rob on January 11, 2014, 2:00 GMT

    As several domestic competitions have highlighted. the 40 over game is a far superior one to the 50 over version. No dull 15 overs in the middle, but enough time to rebuild an innings. Hope that Buttler can move forwards to take the gloves in all forms of the game for England.

  • Jaya on January 11, 2014, 0:30 GMT

    @Rajiv Radhakrishnan - Well, I can think of several notable performances in the ODI series after the Ashes series in England. I remember Mitchell Johnson tearing in on quicker pitches than the tests were played on, and making Trott properly hop about - that proved to be of vital importance. Do you reckon Lehmann and others liked what they saw much? I also seem to recall Aaron Finch blasted the highest ever Australian 1 day score?. And Clint "Who?" McKay was simliing a lot, the Ryan Harris of the 1 day team in the last few years (super consistent wicket-taker). I am a huge fan of Test cricket - but are you really suggesting no ODIs at all against England while they're here?

  • Jay on January 10, 2014, 22:51 GMT

    Personally, England need to shed the foolish mentality of treating ODI cricket as 'second class' following their 5-0 drubbing in tests. The fact of the matter is, no Ashes campaign even comes close to the feeling of winning the world cup which will be held in the very same country in a year's time. So this is the right time to build a team to compete in that prestigious tournament. If England feel tired or exhausted at this point in time, they better pack their bags and stop wasting everybody's time. Cause, the Aussies will be fired up for sure. Even though they got hammered in India recently, they will have serious confidence to face up to England. So England MUST select the right players to WIN this ODI series instead of treating the whole schedule as a test breeding ground. The Ashes is the not the end of the world. The world cup is where it is all at - the biggest prize in cricket.

  • Jay on January 10, 2014, 22:40 GMT

    @Rajiv Radhakrishnan: So you are telling me that the Ashes, a meaningless bilateral series of 5 tests played between TWO nations is of far more significance and relevance compared to a truly GLOBAL and prestigious event like the ICC World Cup ? This is why cricket will never grow beyond the 8 or 9 countries ever because we still have some short-sighted individuals, dwelling in the past who continue watching test matches, wasting all their time, instead of focussing on taking the game to the world by involving a lot more countries. The 50 over world cup is the jewel of cricket. Just because some of you feel it's meaningless, that's not the majority opinion.

  • Jay on January 10, 2014, 22:35 GMT

    ODIs are much better than test match 'boring' cricket. So England should just look at this series in a normal way instead of as a breeding ground for test matches. The reason why England are pathetic in ODI cricket is because they don't pay the attention or respect to the format. No matter how many Ashes series England play, the World Cup is the BIGGEST trophy in cricket and it is played as a 50 overs format. The Ashes may be old historically but it is still a bilateral series between 2 nations which has no bearing on the interest levels in other nations. So England should play this ODI series as a series of stepping blocks towards that world cup in a year's time. Winning the world cup is of much more significance than any Ashes win.

  • Peter on January 10, 2014, 19:32 GMT

    Past failures like Morgan and Bopara to replace current failures.

    Not for me, time to move on failures past and present and get some young blood in there. Bopara and Morgan have had their chance and failed big time.

  • No featured comments at the moment.