Two losses has left England in the precarious position of requiring three wins on the trot against the world champions in order prevent an ODI series defeat.
Only victory from the remaining matches will keep England in the contest and the uphill battle begins in Manchester. The hosts will feel that a turnaround is on the cards with Australia suffering a slew of injury setbacks. However, in 2009 and 2013, Australia followed up Ashes disappointments in England with ODI series victories and will want to close off proceedings early and with ruthless efficiency.
To Win Match
The hosts endured a simply awful World Cup and have insisted that importance in the country is shifted from a comprehensive focus on the Test format to including emphasis on limited overs cricket. This is not just evident in the new-look side, aggressive approach and appointment of Eoin Morgan as captain in the lead-up to the global tournament. It is also embodied in the achievements of coach Trevor Bayliss, particularly in T20 cricket. England hosted New Zealand in a record-breaking ODI series so full of runs it could have collaborated with Aerosmith on a rap-rock track. The pitches were docile, the rules in favour of the batsmen and the afterglow of an astonishing World Cup that ushered in a new standard of a competitive totals was prevalent in abundance.
With the laws of ODI cricket adjusted to allow fielding captains an extra man outside of the ring in the death overs, the run-glut has been stemmed somewhat. What hasn’t changed is a lack of penetration from England’s frontline bowlers at the top of the innings. In the seven ODIs played against New Zealand and Australia since the World Cup, only on one occasion have England had the opposition more than two wickets down at the 25-over mark. That was when New Zealand were chasing over 400 and required to take massive risks. Granted England are without their two main spearheads in Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad for this series but the attack has been predictable and lacked bite. Perhaps David Willey or Reece Topley will come into the equation given the variety they offer as left-armers.
James Taylor looked industrious in making forties in the last two contests, while Eoin Morgan found some form in his last outing. Jos Buttler will make way for Jonny Bairstow as the number one gloveman is rested. The controversy that has arisen from Ben Stokes being given out for obstructing the field is a talking point, but, in the end, decisions are arrived at and hindsight offers no redemption. England will need to put such an incident firmly behind them if they wish to find a way back into this series.
Australia have been troubled by injuries to key members of the ODI touring party and have been forced to source talent from England’s county circuit. While the option to fly in replacements was available, it seemed only logical to give opportunities to players already acclimatised to the conditions and who are available immediately. David Warner will miss out on the rest of the tour as well as Australia’s visit to Bangladesh with a fractured thumb. Shane Watson has picked up a calf strain while Nathan Coulter-Nile has aggravated a hamstring condition and both are unlikely to play any further part in this series. Aaron Finch has been drafted in for Warner – a like-for-like replacement of sorts. John Hastings and Peter Handscomb have replaced Coulter-Nile and Watson respectively.
Australia secured a big opening win at the Rose Bowl, set up by a fantastic partnership between Matthew Wade and Mitchell Marsh that propelled the tourists to over 300. England had looked in with a shot of chasing the target down but Australia’s wicket-taking options stopped the English middle-order in their tracks. Next time out at Lord’s, the crowd bayed in acrimony at the dismissal of Ben Stokes but the Australian bowlers kept their cool to once again dispatch the middle-order and win by a similar margin, having crossed 300 again in London. Australia will however be forced to integrate new players into the setup in Manchester and could find it difficult to click in quite the same manner.
Old Trafford has largely been a happy hunting ground for England in one-day cricket. They’ve won five of the last six ODIs at the ground, dating back to 2007. However, the loss that blemishes a perfect record came to Australia in 2013, Michael Clarke scoring a century. Most recently England dismissed Sri Lanka for 67 before strolling to a ten-wicket victory. No rain is forecast with conditions predicted to be sunny.
VERDICT: England 5/4
With the hosts having lost the opening matches, there’s value in the home win at 5/4. Australia will be testing a few combinations due to their injury crisis and I feel that England have a great opportunity to find a way back into this series on a ground they enjoy.