England v Australia, Group B, ICC World Twenty20 September 13, 2007

The unexpected elimination bout

Ricky Ponting: plenty to ponder © Getty Images
A couple of days ago, the final qualifying match of Group B appeared set to be a private battle between the game's two biggest foes with both sides safely into the next stage. But then Zimbabwe pulled the rug from under Australia's feet, and now the Aussies face an early exit unless they can beat England at Newlands.

The margin of England's victory over Zimbabwe on Thursday means it would take a huge Australian victory to knock them out, but the last time the two sides met in a Twenty20, in Sydney, Australia won by 77 runs. Rusty or not, they are the world champions.

Bat play
Kevin Pietersen and Paul Collingwood were in fine touch against Zimbabwe, but either side of their 100-run stand there was very little contribution. But it would be tough to change the line-up after one match, especially as Darren Maddy and Luke Wright have been handed their chances in the top order on the back of strong domestic performances.

Ricky Ponting said Australia's top order was "diabolical" against Zimbabwe after they slumped to 19 for 3 and failed to recover. Matthew Hayden has struggled with back spasms since arriving in South Africa while there hasn't been much time to find form for Ponting himself, who was delayed by a family illness. Brad Hodge, the leading run-scorer in Twenty20's brief history, appeared to be hitting it the cleanest and it might be worth giving him more overs at the crease.

Wrecking ball
It wasn't the three fast men - Stuart Broad, James Anderson and Andrew Flintoff - who did the damage for England, rather the wicket-to-wicket bowling of Dimitri Mascarenhas and gently-turning legspin of Chris Schofield. Australia struggled against Zimbabwe's lack of pace so that pair will again be key. The floaty offspin of Jeremy Snape could also be a tempting option.

Like their batsmen, Australia's bowlers are trying to shake off the rust. Brett Lee, Nathan Bracken and Mitchell Johnson had their moments against Zimbabwe but weren't at their best, and arguably had too much pace for the conditions. After relying on Hodge for spin in their opening match, Brad Hogg's chinamen would strengthen the attack against a team that has a poor history against wrist spin.

Keep your eye on
The chat between Kevin Pietersen and any Australian within talking distance. Pietersen is still hurting from the 5-0 Ashes drubbing. This clash won't make up for that result, but he'll want to make sure the Aussies know they are in a battle.

Shop talk
Following the 50-run win against Zimbabwe, Collingwood said he hadn't had time to look at the permutations, adding: "We've just got to play it like any other match." But it's fairly certain that, by the morning, he'll know exactly what needs doing if England are struggling to get the outright victory. Fortunately England's only injury concern is that of Andy Flower, the batting coach - he suffered a torn calf during training before the Zimbabwe match.

Ponting is banking on another Anglo-Aussie clash to give his team new life. "Hopefully it will bring more out of us than it did yesterday [Wednesday]," he said. "It wasn't that long ago that we played a lot of cricket against England in both forms of the game, but saying that they've certainly got the edge on us in experience as far as Twenty20 cricket goes." Shane Watson is not in contention but Michael Clarke will come into the reckoning for a middle-order place.

Pitching it right
Although Pietersen hinted otherwise, scoring still wasn't easy on Thursday. A different pitch will be used for this game after the same one was used for the first two matches, but it's unlikely to alter conditions too much.


England (probable) Darren Maddy, Matt Prior (wk), Luke Wright, Kevin Pietersen, Paul Collingwood (capt), Andrew Flintoff, Owais Shah, Dimitri Mascarenhas, Chris Schofield, Stuart Broad, James Anderson

Australia (probable) Adam Gilchrist (wk), Matthew Hayden, Ricky Ponting (capt), Andrew Symonds, Brad Hodge, Mike Hussey, Michael Clarke, Brad Hogg, Brett Lee, Nathan Bracken, Stuart Clark

Andrew McGlashan is a staff writer on Cricinfo