Match facts

June 24, 2010, Sophia Gardens
Start time 2.30pm (13.30GMT)

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A strange thing has happened over the past few months: England have become quite good at limited-overs cricket. They took home the World Twenty20, opened the one-day series with a solid victory at the Rose Bowl and have now won their past six ODIs. It's an unfamiliar feeling for Ricky Ponting, who over the past decade has lost a couple of Ashes series but has always been involved in a one-day team that had the old rivals covered. They've met in 35 ODIs in the past ten years, for 25 Australian wins.

But despite the result in Southampton, where England chased Australia's total with four overs to spare, it was for much of the day a tightly contested battle. Eoin Morgan's unbeaten century was the difference and Australia know that with a few more runs from their senior batsmen, they have a good chance to draw level. Equally, England realise that it's risky to rely on one man, so they too require more from the likes of Kevin Pietersen and Andrew Strauss.

Australia's attack remains a weakness and it's strange to think that while they walk out onto Sophia Gardens, one of their most deadly weapons will be watching on. Shaun Tait is in town as part of Glamorgan's Twenty20 squad and England's batsmen are no doubt glad not to be facing his toe-crushing 100mph yorkers and nasty short balls. Australia view Tait as a Twenty20 specialist these days, but he would add an x-factor to the bowling group.

One thing is certain: defeat in Cardiff will make it extremely difficult for Australia to fight back and win the series. Ponting said after Tuesday that losses often brought out the best in the Australians. Let's see if he's right.

Form guide (last five completed matches)

England WWWWW
Australia LWLWW

Watch out for...

As opening batsman and fifth bowler, Shane Watson is arguably the most important man in Australia's team. He was the only one of the specialists who scored at better than a run a ball in Southampton, although his aggression also brought his downfall. If he makes another quick start, but this time capitalises, it will help to reduce the pressure on Australia's undermanned attack.

Eoin Morgan's wonderful match-winning century at the Rose Bowl confirmed him as the danger man in England's middle order. Ricky Ponting was unhappy with the was his bowlers fed Morgan half-volleys, but it didn't much matter where they put the ball against a man in that sort of form.

Team news

Australia sprung a surprise by handing Josh Hazlewood a debut in Southampton, where they expected some bounce in the pitch that could be exploited by the tall teenager. His nervy first ball was a full toss that Kevin Pietersen drove to the boundary, but Hazlewood fought back to take 1 for 41 and the captain Ricky Ponting said "he handled himself pretty well". Clint McKay was unlucky to miss out and might again be sidelined if Hazlewood is retained. There must be a temptation to bring in Steven Smith, who would add power to the lower order. However, their batting is their strength, so they should rely on their solid top six to post a decent score.

Australia (possible) 1 Shane Watson, 2 Tim Paine (wk), 3 Ricky Ponting (capt), 4 Michael Clarke, 5 Cameron White, 6 Michael Hussey, 7 James Hopes, 8 Nathan Hauritz, 9 Ryan Harris, 10 Josh Hazlewood, 11 Doug Bollinger.

England will be reluctant to change a winning side. Michael Yardy's inclusion in might have surprised some fans but he proved a very useful bowler and should keep his place.

England (probable) 1 Andrew Strauss (capt), 2 Craig Kieswetter (wk), 3 Kevin Pietersen, 4 Paul Collingwood, 5 Eoin Morgan, 6 Michael Yardy, 7 Luke Wright, 8 Tim Bresnan, 9 Graeme Swann, 10 Stuart Broad, 11 James Anderson.

Pitch and conditions

Rather perversely, Sophia Gardens is more like an Australian home ground than an English one, quite apart from the fact that it's Welsh. Australia have played three one-day internationals in Cardiff, although they have only won one. England, on the other hand, have never finished an ODI at the venue, with both their matches having been washed out. The forecast for Thursday says there is the chance of an isolated heavy shower, so Duckworth-Lewis calculations might again be on standby.

Stats and Trivia

  • England's triumph in Southampton was their sixth consecutive ODI victory. If they win in Cardiff, it will be their best winning streak in ODIs since 1997-98
  • Thanks to England's wash-outs in 2006 and 2008, there hasn't been an ODI result in Cardiff since Australia's infamous loss to Bangladesh in 2005
  • Ricky Ponting needs 51 runs to reach the milestone of 13,000 in one-day internationals - only Sachin Tendulkar and Sanath Jayasuriya have achieved that mark
  • At 19 years and 165 days, Josh Hazlewood was Australia's youngest ever ODI debutant. The previous record holder was Ray Bright, who was 19 years and 260 days old when he walked out in Dunedin in 1974

Quotes

"We're not getting carried away but it's good to get the series off to a good start."
Andrew Strauss

"A loss generally brings the best out of us."
Ricky Ponting looks on the bright side

Brydon Coverdale is a staff writer at Cricinfo