Astute observers of this here website may have noticed that the majority of our posts are centred on either England or Australia (our efforts to become truly global tend to stall whenever we criticise Verinder Sehwag or the BCCI, i.e. on a weekly basis). Matt Larnach’s guides to the Australian’s selection dilemmas and his prologue to this five-match series have helped counterbalance the otherwise constant ribbing of Samit Patel by the English contributors. Therefore, with the first encounter between these old wardogs taking place on Friday, the atmosphere behind the scenes here at 51allout is tenser than in the Nottingham Balti Buffet the evening that Samit Patel first heard about their ‘All You Can Eat for £10’ deal. You see, we’ve never covered an England vs. Australia series before. We promise to be civilised. In no way will we mock the Australian haircuts. Our attention will be turned solely to matters pertaining to the onfield cricket – and not the apparent wave of barbershop mishaps that has plagued Sydney in recent months.
Notwithstanding that this is England against Australia, it is hard to get very motivated about this series. Five matches with little context to the rest of the summer are not ideal and have added to an already packed schedule (how much better would these days be if they were part of additional Tests against South Africa?). Of course, it’s not solely about money – though that probably helps – because in a reciprocal arrangement Australia will host England in the build-up to the 2015 World Cup. However having criticised the series, we will attempt to about-turn like Shane Watson during an aborted single and note that ticket sales have apparently been good and that there is certainly interest and intrigue, if not full-on Ashes-style fever.
Observers, whether astute or not, may have spotted that England have done remarkably well in the ODI format recently. There has been a run of centuries at the top of the order that has never been seen before (this is obviously A Very Important Record Of Note and in no way an artificial record no-one cared about beforehand like Tendulkar’s 100th international hundred), indeed the batting has done so well that the lower order have rarely had to strap on their pads. Some doubts remain about the likes of Craig Kieswetter and Ravi Bopara – both of whom are likely to play – and Jonny Bairstow – who is not – but for now England appear settled in the wake of that minor fuss about Kevin Pietersen. Moreover, the current selection policy is to pick the five best bowlers rather than a motley assortment of unlikely lads who can fill in with bat or ball (note: such players may not necessarily be able to fill in with bat or ball), hence the attack should test Australia in these conditions.
Firstly, there are some real danger men in this Australian team, as befitting a side who are officially still number one in this format of the game (this is a bit like going away on holiday to Thailand for three months and returning home to find Wet Wet Wet still sitting pretty at number one in the singles chart). Although
people we mock, David Warner and Shane Watson are capable of destruction, and not just of the type prefixed by ‘self’. David Hussey and Michael Clarke should also be very handy in this format.
Secondly, there are also some rather less dangerous men who may play: the likes of Peter Forrest and Matthew Wade are inexperienced and still largely unproven, irrespective of what Shane Warne thinks.
Bowling wise, there are more options. Of course, whilst eyes will be focusing on one Steve Smith, the visitors will probably be spearheaded by the evergreen Brett Lee. The supporting players remain to be confirmed, but the attack is likely to be a pacey one including all, none or some of Pat Cummins, James Pattinson and Mitchell Johnson. The word on the street is that an unchanged team from the one that demolished Essex is the preferred option, though hopefully Smith will be given some overs this time.
It depends on the weather at Lord’s to be blunt: if a match can be played between the showers, expect it to be closely fought. Assuming that we publish this article before Matt Larnach can get his grubby paws on the ‘edit’ button, we’re predicting a tight victory for England and a trip to the hairdresser’s for Australia.