Written by Maverick White for @Hollywoodbets. Follow them both on Twitter and Facebook now!
Australia vs England | Friday 17 January | Brisbane | 05:20
After completing a monstrous Ashes clean sweep, the Australians are straight back to winning ways following their victory over England in the first ODI of the series. Praise has been lauded upon Darren Lehmann for a change of culture in the Australian dressing room, fear and pressure traded for fun and aggression. An altogether less anxiety-ridden Australian side has announced its intentions to become number one in the world in all formats. It will be a tremendous feat if accomplished, but delivered with typical Australian tenacity, the statement will reverberate in cricket brains that need not look too far back to remember a time when the Aussies were nigh unbeatable. With England futures uncertain and an ODI World Cup looming in less than a year, the visitors will be desperate to impress. Too eager perhaps, when facing the carefree Aussies.
One man that the English will be keen to see the back of is Aaron Finch. The opener has come into his own in the limited overs arena of late, his 121 in the first ODI virtually cementing his place next to David Warner in the foreseeable future. He broke the highest individual T20 international score in Southampton after the previous Ashes, scoring 156. Although he was dropped while on 8 at the MCG, he made the English pay for their blunder and put on 163 with Warner for the first wicket. It is crucial for England to break this dangerous partnership early. Shane Watson will be rested from this contest, as Mitchell Johnson was for the first. Johnson may make an appearance here however, Australia keen for him to build on his Ashes momentum as they take on South Africa next month. James Pattinson is also back and available for selection; these ODIs will be used to gauge which cricketers will be pushing for selection for South African tour. In the Test side, the identifiable weak link is George Bailey. Although I have no doubt he will be capable Test middle-order batsmen, he will need to make more of a case in his favoured format; ODI cricket.
If England thought their problems would magically disappear with a change of format, they would have been horribly wrong. Despite Ashley Giles having control over the limited overs formats, Andy Flower still oversees all of England cricket. Flower is asking for more power of decision; England cricket fans are calling for his head. Flower clearly wants to redeem himself and has stated his intention to stay, however the toxic environment that has been created will be difficult to dispel. No English cricketer’s future is certain at the moment, aside from possibly Alastair Cook. And no player is under more scrutiny than Kevin Pietersen. He has been rested from the ODI leg of the tour, along with James Anderson. Broad has also been granted a rest for the first two fixtures. For once, aside from careless dismissals in the Test series, KP hasn’t done all that much wrong. It seems that Flower is unhappy with his presence in the dressing room and there is speculation that it is for this reason that the coach wants more control over selection. Dropping Pietersen will not help England. Finding a balanced team atmosphere inclusive of KP might. England desperately need their limited overs specialists to come to the fore. They will be heartened by a half-century courtesy of Eoin Morgan in the first ODI, but will also require the likes of Bopara and Jos Buttler to contribute more. It may have been a good idea to attempt to incorporate Alex Hales into the side. In fact, Eoin Morgan is an experienced cricketer. Where was he during England’s Ashes implosion?
The Gabba is known for its pace and bounce, something that the likes of Mitchell Johnson will enjoy exploiting. Aside from their last fixture at the ground against Sri Lanka, Australia haven’t lost at the Gabba since 2008. The Sri Lankan win was a freak of fixture, Australia all out for 74 and Sri Lanka getting over the line with only four wickets to spare. There is little rain predicted for Friday.
BEST: Top England Batsman, Eoin Morgan 9/2
Morgan showed fluency during his stint at the wicket in the first ODI and has not been scarred as badly as most so far on this tour. He has the counter-punch and tenacity that England so desperately need. I expect him to top score while the rest of the order falls to shambles around him. Get on.
VERDICT: Australia 7/20
Despite the short price, there’s no-one to back except Australia. England’s bowling attack is depleted, with their top order in horrendous form. Australia have the momentum and a dangerous combination at the top. Look no further than the Aussies.
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