England v Australia
Thursday September 3, 11pm
England will reckon they drew first blood with victory in the one-off T20 in Cardiff on Monday. It was further proof that they are an emerging force in the shorter formats.
Much of the squad remains. Liam Plunkett and Mark Wood have been added to the bowling ranks while Reece Topley steps out. James Vince, who didn’t play in Wales, is replaced by James Taylor.
Eoin Morgan, the captain, and Moeen Ali were the architects of the victory thanks to some superb batting. With Joe Root not playing it will be of great relief to the selectors that two senior men have found form at just the right time.
Australia are the world champions in name but not all the personnel from that campaign remain. There is no Michael Clarke, Mitchell Johnson or James Faulkner.
Certainly the latter two could be considered big holes to fill. They took 25 wickets between them in that tournament. Josh Hazelwood, seven victims, is also missing.
Instead the Aussies hope that Mitchell Starc will be at his devastating best with the white ball, ably supported by two from Nathan Coulter-Nile, Pat Cummins and James Pattinson.
Mitchell Marsh and Glenn Maxwell provide the all-round threat, Matthew Wade keeps wicket and Joe Burns is expected to open the batting with David Warner.
Australia are 1.64 for victory. History is on their side with Ashes winners oddly impotent in the one-day jamboree that follows. England are 2.72 and the draw is 16.00. If England are to cause a shock then it would be fair to assume it is by the narrowest of margins so the 4.40 about a 3-2 home win makes more sense. Australia are 3.3 for the same.
The first-innings average at the Rose Bowl in the 16 ODI matches played there (we don’t include the farce that was USA v Australia) is 259. More than 300 had not been breached until three games ago when the Kiwis amassed 359 for three in 2013. Earlier this summer both England and New Zealand busted 300.
So what has happened to bring these sides closer together? Not huge amount. Australia have only played once – beating Ireland. England, of course, actually got worse after that mauling but bounced back in stupendous style against the runners-up earlier in the summer with a stunning win over New Zealand.
But it is hard to reckon England are value particularly without Root, their talisman. Australia have won nine of the previous ten meetings, too.
There is no toss bias, which is rather disappointing for those looking for an excuse to get with the hosts. England record’s in Southampton is not especially brilliant – bang on fifty-fifty in eight games under lights.
Morgan has a superb record in Southampton. He averages 70 there in eight innings with two centuries. He is 5.5. Alex Hales is 6.2 jolly and Jason Roy, who needs a score, is 6.2. Moeen looks big at 6 considering he should bat at No 3.
Back Australia at 1.69