This series would seem to be either because of Australia and England's financial dependence on each other or as payback for Australia letting England warm-up before the last World Cup. Maybe a combination of the two.

But it does allow us to see two of the most fancied sides in English conditions a year out from the World Cup.

England are the No. 1 ranked team and since the last World Cup they've been the most exciting attacking and dominant ODI side. England have won 67% of their completed matches in that time, Australia have won 52%. But both have some concerns going into next year's tournament.


Australia need to be more aggressive, but they also have a short batting line-up. So they have created a system where they need to score quicker while getting out less. At The Oval it fell apart the way you would expect.

In the middle overs from the 11th until the 40th over the last two years, England, India and South Africa have changed the way teams need to bat.

This is where the games are won, England are scoring at a massive rate in those overs, Australia have the fourth best run rate in that time, and they are .6 runs down per over. Over 30 overs that's 18 runs. This is not a new problem; it was happening with David Warner and Steven Smith in the team. India through their slower Powerplay starts and England through their vast batting order.

Over the last two years, England have out-batted Australia in every position except the No.7 spot. England's eight, nine and ten average 35, 23 and 21, no one batting after seven for Australia averages over 20.

England have fielded teams where all 11 players have made first-class hundreds, Australia had Ashton Agar batting at seven at The Oval, he averages 21 in one-day domestic cricket. There is not much Australia can do, unlike England, they don't have a nearly endless supply of allrounders, and that's when someone like Agar ends up at No. 7.

They have to hope their top six, or seven, goes supersonic during the World Cup. Or their bowling completely dominates.


The ball's wide and swinging, Travis Head sees a four opportunity with the field up and throws his hands at it. All he can do is edge the ball, and Jonny Bairstow at first slip takes the catch. It seems like the kind of wicket that David Willey should take a lot. According to CricViz, in the last two years, no one has swung the ball more in the first two overs of ODIs.

But he doesn't take a lot of ODI wickets. In the first Powerplay over the last two years Willey averages 42. His economy rate is 5.42, which is on the expensive side for those who bowl there a lot.

England have tried a few other seamers over the last two years. Chris Woakes has been about as good as anyone in the world, but his partners have not. Mark Wood's opened with Willey today; his average is 60. Jake Ball is one of the best T20 Powerplay strike bowlers, but is oddly terrible in ODI cricket, in average and economy.

Moeen Ali averages 13 in the first ten but hasn't bowled there much.

So it's even more critical for Willey to be successful there. Willey bowls out his ten overs 22% of the time, and that is because he bowls well over half of his overs in the Powerplay.

It'd be less of a problem if Willey was not a specialist Powerplay bowler. But since Willey's career began, he's bowled the third highest percentage of overs in the top ten. Meaning that if he's not working there, he's not working as a bowler. England have been able to cover Willey because of all their allrounders, but you wonder how much longer they'll be willing to play a specialist in the position his records are not that good.


There are few questions about Tim Paine and his moral compass. There are heaps of questions about him as an ODI batsman. Where does he bat? He averages 31 in ODI cricket, he made a hundred early in his career, and he's made eight centuries in List A cricket. In the old days, he'd be batting three or four, to build an innings, but ODI cricket has changed. And Paine bats the way ODIs were played a generation ago.

He's slower than the average strike-rate in one-day domestic cricket. Until 2014-15 he'd never scored quicker than an 85 strike-rate for an entire Australian summer. At times earlier this year he was coming in at the death when Australia had to kick on, a job he's as qualified for as being a royal ice sculptor.

And this also causes another problem, Paine being in the side means that Alex Carey is not. No one knows how good Carey can be, but in the Big Bash this season he averaged 49 and struck at 140. It shows the promise this former Australian Rules footballer has. But due to his late-starting career, and the limited amount of one-day domestic cricket now played, Carey is 26, and has only played 16 List A games. He's never made a hundred, averages 30 and strikes at 75. The talent is there, but the experience is not. Australia need him in the side, to train him in limited-overs cricket, and to see if he's going to work it out.

Instead, they have Paine who at The Oval after scoring only 12 from his first 18 balls, tried a reverse sweep, which looked as unlikely to be successful as a cricket shot can. According to CricViz Paine's played 14 reverse-sweeps in ODI cricket, he's been dismissed from three of them.

Of all Paine's positive qualities, scoring quick and improvising aren't among them.


Despite being the best team in ODI cricket over the last few years, England lost their first major knockout game. Pakistan absolutely slaughtered them, they didn't handle the slow pitch when batting, and when bowling seemed to have no real idea how to take wickets.

The problem for England is that in general, the current thinking in the cricket analytics community - though no one has proved it conclusively - is that tournaments are more often won by the best, or one of the better, bowling teams.

And being the next World Cup is in England, and four of the five toughest World Cups for batting have been in England, bowling really matters.

Things have changed in England, with it now being good for batting over the last two years, the best in ODIs.

But even then it was the team with the best bowling attack, Pakistan, who won the Champions Trophy in England last year.

The problem for England is that they aren't that good a bowling attack. Since the last World Cup England has been one of the poorer bowling teams. Looking at the major teams, England has the second worst economy, and the fourth worst average. So they don't take many wickets, and they go for runs.

In the Champions Trophy, they took their wickets at 37, while going at 5.90 an over. Pakistan averaged 30 and went for just under five an over.

England know their batting, while so dominant, can't make runs every game. It's in those knockout games where batsmen often get tight, where you need your bowlers stand up. Woakes and Adil Rashid aside, England's bowling is shaky, even with the extra options. The rest of the attack seems to be chosen as much to lengthen the batting as deliver the bowling.

It seems like England have the ideal team to win a big percentage of their ODIs, but do they have the team to win tournaments?

Jarrod Kimber is a writer for ESPNcricinfo. @ajarrodkimber