Australia pin hopes on big guns to keep series alive


Big Picture

Rinse, repeat. As in Melbourne, so it was in Brisbane: Australia batted first, found themselves well placed after an Aaron Finch hundred, failed to kick on sufficiently, then watched as England overhauled their target with wickets and overs to spare. After almost single-handedly confounding England during the Test series, now it is Steven Smith’s turn to be frustrated.

In truth, things look pretty grim. Australia’s canaries are deep in the coalmine and seemingly struggling for air. They have lost nine of their last 10 completed ODIs and face being beaten by England on home soil for the first time in a decade; 2-0 down with three to play does not leave much room for error and they are set to throw everything at England with their first-choice pace attack.

While Finch has been a model of consistency at the top of the order, his team-mates have been unable to carry on the good work. With Smith and Travis Head both apparently out of touch, too much has been asked of Mitchell Marsh and Marcus Stoinis, while the decision to bring back Cameron White as a specialist No. 7 also backfired. Chris Lynn’s injury has deprived Australia of a middle-order hitter but the discarded Glenn Maxwell must be looking on with eyebrows raised.

For England, the contrast with the Ashes is stark. Imbued with a sense of freedom and certainty in their roles, the limited-overs personnel continue to thrive under Eoin Morgan – whose only (slight) concern is a personal lack of runs. The bowlers were even sharper in executing Morgan’s plans at the Gabba and Chris Woakes then demonstrated England’s depth with the bat to stave off a mini-wobble. The ultra-aggressive approach will come unstuck from time to time but they look in serene form.

Form guide

(last five completed matches, most recent first)

Australia LLLWL
England WWWWW

In the spotlight

Finch, David Warner and Smith represents a world-class top three, but Australia’s middle order is looking pretty muddled 18 months out from a World Cup defence. Since the last tournament, their two most productive batsmen at Nos. 4-7 have been George Bailey and Matthew Wade: both of whom appear to be men of the past. Head’s one ODI hundred, meanwhile, came at opener. This much is certain: Australia need a higher output from their engine room.

Having seemingly put the trials of the Ashes behind him, Joe Root has once again demonstrated why he is such a highly rated multi-format player (even if his run without a century on tour continues). Innings of 91 not out and 46 not out have calmly steered England in two successful chases, while figures of 2 for 31 with the ball in Brisbane were a reminder that Morgan has a pretty handy sixth bowling option even without Ben Stokes in the side. He will be playing his 100th ODI in Sydney and even with a duck his average will remain over 50 so he will become just the sixth player to have 100 matches and a 50+ average in ODIs.

Teams news

Australia look set to throw everything at England in an attempt to keep the series alive, reuniting the big three fast bowlers for the first time since the Sydney Test. Josh Hazlewood was due to play in Brisbane but was hit by the illness running through the Australia camp, while Pat Cummins was rested. Legspinner Adam Zampa will have to come back into the mix as well, logically as a swap for the failed recall of Cameron White. Tim Paine is set to return in place of Alex Carey, although the debutant keeper was a rare bright spot in Brisbane. .

Australia (probable) 1 David Warner, 2 Aaron Finch, 3 Steven Smith (capt), 4 Travis Head, 5 Mitchell Marsh, 6 Marcus Stoinis, 7 Tim Paine (wk), 8 Mitchell Starc, 9 Pat Cummins, 10 Adam Zampa, 11 Josh Hazlewood

There is no need for England to change unless injuries spring up. That’s tough on the squad players, but victory in Sydney would open up the chance to try a few different things with the series wrapped up. Conditions in Sydney could see the spin trio come to the fore again. . England (probable) 1 Jason Roy, 2 Jonny Bairstow, 3 Alex Hales, 4 Joe Root, 5 Eoin Morgan (capt), 6 Jos Buttler (wk), 7 Moeen Ali, 8 Chris Woakes, 9 Adil Rashid, 10 Liam Plunkett, 11 Mark Wood

Pitch and conditions

The last four ODIs on this ground have seen scores in excess of 300. There was turn on offer during the Test, but over the course of a 100-over day it should remain good for batting. The forecast is for a warm, sunny day.

Stats and trivia

  • Eoin Morgan needs 14 runs to overtake Paul Collingwood as England’s second-highest run-scorer.

  • Travis Head is 54 runs short of 1000 in one-day internationals.

  • Chris Woakes is three wickets away from the 100 mark.

Quotes

“It was frustrating… we got ourselves into a reasonable position with 11 overs to go and everything fell to pieces again. Getting to 270 isn’t good enough against a quality batting line-up like England.”
Steven Smith on Australia’s below-par effort at the Gabba

“That’s quite smart captaincy from him, to be able to juggle things round and make sure he had plenty of options at the death was crucial.”
Joe Root hails Eoin Morgan’s decision to bring him on for a bowl



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