“Five-four! We’re gonna win 5-4!” That was the cry from the Barmy Army section of in the crowd at the SCG, as England took a decisive 3-0 lead in the ODIs. Such has been the turnaround in form since Australia cruised to victory in the Tests, reclaiming the Ashes at exactly the same juncture in the series, that Englishmen down under can amuse themselves with visions of an aggregate victory before attention switches to T20 and the tri-series involving New Zealand.
It is within Australia’s ambit to silence the Barmies, of course, although they have often looked powerless in the face of an increasingly confident and aggressive England. What better occasion on which to spark a resurgence than Australia Day at Adelaide Oval? Glenn Maxwell has offered a prescription for how they can better challenge the visitors – essentially by indulging in less “chill-out time” during the middle overs. The day after his advice was published, Maxwell was called into the squad as cover for an injured Aaron Finch, though Travis Head seems the more likely man to return to the team for the hamstrung opener, given his heroics alongside David Warner this day last year.
Steven Smith looked anything but chilled after another defeat in Sydney, where his team appeared to be in control until the last 10 overs of the England innings. An attack featuring Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins had successfully restricted England’s top order, only for Jos Buttler and Chris Woakes to cut loose at the death, their unbroken 113-run stand ultimately putting the game beyond Australia.
Buttler’s 83-ball hundred was, remarkably, the slowest of his five in ODIs but it set the platform for victory – one that was made all the more impressive by the need to find a replacement bowler to deliver 8.4 overs after Liam Plunkett pulled up injured. Eoin Morgan called it England’s best win since he was retained as captain in the wake of their disastrous 2015 World Cup.
England are clearly on a roll, victorious in eight of their last nine one-day series, while Australia appear to be in a spiral. But Australia have never been whitewashed at home in a bilateral ODI encounter and preventing such an outcome against the English, of all nations, ought to be motivation in itself.
(last five completed matches, most recent first)
In the spotlight
The dismissal of Steven Smith in Australia’s chase at Sydney threatened to become a flashpoint, after a controversial low catch behind off Mark Wood – but afterwards Smith made light of the incident by suggesting it actually gave a chance to someone batting more fluently than him. Having moved down the order to No. 4, Smith managed just one boundary in his 45 from 66 balls, as Australia again suffered from a meandering scoring rate during the middle overs. With his own returns poor and his side enduring a horrible run of form, Smith has rarely looked more frazzled as captain.
After his stunning late assault at the SCG, as well as a crucial (and disputed) catch to dismiss Smith, all eyes will be on Jos Buttler. England’s vice-captain had gone two years without an international hundred but he produced an innings that was notable for its patience and situational awareness, before unleashing his full range at the death. He did not play it safe, however, despite England being six down, and Buttler’s commitment to the attacking credo that England have espoused over the last couple of years turned out to be the difference between the sides.
Head is most likely to replace Finch at the top. Not only did he find some form with 58 from 47 balls for Adelaide Strikers in the Big Bash League, but on Australia Day last year, Head put on a record 284 with Warner on the way to an Australian total of 369 against Pakistan. Maxwell, meanwhile, has been added to the squad as batting cover.
Australia (probable) 1 David Warner, 2 Travis Head, 3 Cameron White, 4 Steven Smith (capt), 5 Mitchell Marsh, 6 Marcus Stoinis, 7 Tim Paine (wk), 8 Mitchell Starc, 9 Pat Cummins, 10 Adam Zampa, 11 Josh Hazlewood
Morgan has suggested England will play their strongest XI in pursuit of two more victories but Liam Plunkett’s hamstring injury is likely to lead to at least one change, with Tom Curran and David Willey vying for a chance. There may also be a temptation to give a debut to Dawid Malan at some stage.
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 Tom Curran, 11 Mark Wood
Pitch and conditions
Adelaide Oval is widely regarded as having found the best balance for its drop-in pitches, with something for batsmen and bowlers alike. Last year’s ODI between Australia and Pakistan saw a match aggregate of 681 runs, however, and the forecast for a hot, clear day could mean plenty of chasing leather.
Stats and trivia
England’s last visit to this ground saw them beaten by Bangladesh and knocked out of the 2015 World Cup at the group stage.
Australia beat England by five runs in Adelaide four years ago, to seal the ODIs 4-1. Only four players – Finch, Morgan, Root and Buttler – from either side are involved in this series.
Woakes currently has 926 runs and 98 wickets in ODIs, putting him on course to become only the fourth Englishman – after Paul Collingwood, Andrew Flintoff and Ian Botham – to reach the dual landmark of 1000 and 100.
“I think the Australian one-day team for a while, our chill-out time has been four and a half to five an over, of just making sure we conserve wickets. I think these days you just can’t afford to do that. You’ve got to be a little tougher and got to be a little more boundary-conscious.
Reserve batsman Glenn Maxwell’s advice for Australia
“We’ve got the momentum and winning is a habit so we’ll be trying to do that in the last two games to secure a 5-0 whitewash.”
Chris Woakes reiterates that England won’t be easing up with the series won