Written by Maverick White for @Hollywoodbets. Follow them both on Twitter and Facebook now!
England vs Australia | Thursday 29 August | Southampton | 19:30
With the dust barely settling on a ferocious and controversial Ashes, two T20 matches, plus an ODI series, will attempt to serve as adequate distraction to the return contest Down Under. Indeed, the two squads will hardly bear resemblance to those that lined up in their whites for a particularly dry English summer. However, the Australians will welcome a return to the gold uniform and a chance to redeem themselves in front of the English public. With the verbal jousting and proverbial ‘pissing matches’ taking centre stage in the aftermath of the Ashes, it is doubtful that the T20 version will be any less exhilarating.
Alastair Cook will hand over the reigns of captaincy to Stuart Broad following his Ashes triumph and take a hard earned break, due to be rested for the upcoming ODIs. Broad was one of those implicated in soiling the Oval, relieving himself on the square after a beer or two with the team. Whether it is viewed as harmless behaviour in the midst of celebration or blatant disregard for the sanctity of the game, it just comes across as rather embarrassing that grown men need to be chastised regarding their toilet habits. Aside from Broad, only Joe Root and Steven Finn have been included from England’s triumphant Ashes squad, the rest being limited overs specialists. Lumb and Hales will likely open the batting, with Luke Wright at three and Morgan, Bopara and Buttler floating around the middle-order. England also have Root and Carberry to consider. James Tredwell will be the spin option, with Broad, Finn, Dernbach and Rankin available in the pace department.
The limited overs contests will be seen as an opportunity for certain Australians to gain confidence and be part of a winning culture before they attempt to wrestle the Ashes urn back into their possession at home later in the year. If things go badly however, morale may be at an all-time low. George Bailey takes over as captain and with Clarke’s back still a pressing issue, it is unlikely he will make any unnecessary appearances. Australia are definitely not lacking in firepower, with Warner, Watson, Maxwell, Finch and Voges all included. Shaun Marsh may get another shot at redemption, while Steven Smith’s Ashes exploits may warrant an inclusion. Matthew Wade will keep wicket, while Fawad Ahmed, having travelling to Australia from Pakistan seeking asylum in 2010, looks to be the lead spinner. A leg-spinner who has impressed for the A side, he will be under constant scrutiny. Mitchell Johnson and Mitchell Starc lead the pace barrage, with options in Josh Hazlewood, Clint McKay and Nathan Coulter-Nile.
The Rose Bowl in Southampton plays host to the opening fixture, its third T20 international. England have a 50% record so far, thrashing Australia by a hundred runs back in 2005 and losing to Sri Lanka in 2006. At the time of writing, no rain is predicted.
BEST: Most Match Sixes, Australia 11/10
Of the two sides, I feel the Aussies hold the edge in terms of pure firepower. I also expect them to field a number of the power-hitters in the team, the likes of Watson, Warner and Maxwell all capable of varying degrees of destruction on their day.
VERDICT: Australia 9/10
The bookies can’t pry these two sides apart, and without knowledge of team selection it is quite a difficult task. I expect the Australians to field their strongest batting lineup in order to stamp their authority on a series that, although clearly meaning little to the English, carries significance for their bruised egos. Back the Australians to finally have something to celebrate.
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