• World Cup

England set for fiery date with Australia

George Dobell | ESPNcricinfo
February 13, 2015
This way or that, Eoin Morgan needs runs © Getty Images
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Match facts:


Saturday, February 14, 2015
Start time 14.30 local (03.30 GMT)

Big Picture

A full house crowd in excess of 90,000 is expected at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) to see these old enemies start their World Cup campaigns.

Most will be expecting a Valentine's Day massacre. With Australia having won all three of the ODIs between the sides in the preceding tri-series, there is a sense not so much of two teams battling it out as much as one team being thrown to the lions.

You can see why. Australia have won 11 of their last 12 ODIs - including a 4-1 victory over highly-rated South Africa; they have a battling line-up that extends beyond the horizon - their likely No. 10 here, Mitchell Starc, has scored 99 in a Test Match - and a battery of bowlers that contains, arguably, the three quickest seamers in the tournament in Mitchell Johnson, Pat Cummins and Starc.

Perhaps that expectation may weigh heavy on their shoulders, but they are rated No.1 in the ICC ODI table for a reason. Their batsmen can tear apart any attack and they have two men in the top 10 of the bowling rankings. Playing in conditions in which they are familiar and suit them, and cheered on by a home crowd, they remain strong favourites for this match and the tournament.

England, meanwhile, are unburdened by expectation. Having recently changed their captain, not won an ODI series for almost a year and failed to reach the semi-finals of the World Cup since 1992, little is expected of them. Their recent record against Australia in Australia - they have lost 13 of the last 15 ODIs - provides further evidence towards the same conclusion.

Their new look side promises to be undaunted by the cauldron in which they will start. And, if the ball swings for James Anderson, if they can somehow contain better in the last 40 overs of the opposition innings, if they get off to a good start with the bat, then perhaps they could cause a shock. But it would be a surprise if they ruined the Valentine's Day of 100,000 Australians.

Form guide

Australia:WWWW England:LWLWL
(last five matches, most recent first)

In the spotlight

Australia's captain, George Bailey, openly admitted that he would almost certainly not be in the side if Michael Clarke were considered fit to play. Bailey, who has failed to pass 25 in his last seven ODIs and only once passed 32 in his last 14, is therefore in desperate need of runs to secure his place for the second match against Bangladesh in a week.

England's skipper, Eoin Morgan, can empathise with Bailey. While his place is not in serious jeopardy, he knows that his side desperately need him to contribute more if they are going to challenge. He has been dismissed five times from the last 19 balls he has faced and, while he scored a fine century against this opposition just four ODIs ago, that performance was the aberration: he has passed 40 only twice in his last 23 ODI innings. Including warm-up matches, he has scored two runs in his last four games. Having sacked Alastair Cook for his poor form in the run-up to the tournament, the last thing England want is more concerns about the personal performance of the captain.

Teams news

James Faulkner and Michael Clarke will sit out through injury and spinner Xavier Doherty is unlikely to be used in this game. That leaves Josh Hazlewood/Pat Cummins as the main selection decision, and Hazlewood's control and consistency might give him the edge. The balance is hurt by Faulkner's injury, though, and 20 overs would need to be found between Glenn Maxwell, Shane Watson and Mitchell Marsh. The alternative is playing both Cummins and Hazlewood and leaving Marsh out.

Australia (possible) 1 David Warner, 2 Aaron Finch, 3 Shane Watson, 4 Steven Smith, 5 George Bailey (capt), 6 Glenn Maxwell, 7 Mitchell Marsh, 8 Brad Haddin (wk), 9 Mitchell Johnson, 10 Mitchell Starc, 11 Josh Hazlewood.

Over the last few weeks, England have settled on a preferred XI which is likely to be utilised here. Chris Woakes is likely to share the new ball with James Anderson, with Steve Finn and Stuart Broad offering support. While England retain the option of playing a second spinner in James Tredwell and await a last look at the pitch, it is more likely that Moeen Ali will be the sole slow bowler. The only real selection dilemma is whether to stick with Ravi Bopara as the middle-order finisher and insurance seamer ahead of the extra batsman in Gary Ballance. Bopara looks likely to play this time, but is coming under increasing pressure.

England (probable): 1 Ian Bell, 2 Moeen Ali, 3 James Taylor, 4, 5 Eoin Morgan (capt), 6 Ravi Bopara,  7 Jos Buttler, 8 Chris Woakes, 9 Stuart Broad, 10 Steve Finn, 11 James Anderson. 

Pitch and conditions

The MCG's drop-in pitches can be a little unpredictable; early in the season Australia played on a quick and bouncy surface, but their warm-up game against the UAE this week was on a slower pitch. "I think it'll be more for the quicks here," Australia's captain George Bailey said. The forecast for Saturday is for a humid day with a top of 31C and likely showers and thunderstorms in the morning and perhaps in the afternoon.

Stats and trivia

  • The record cricket crowd at the MCG is 91,112, set on Boxing Day in 2013 during Australia's Ashes clean sweep
  • England have been bowled out in 11 of their last 17 ODIs; Australia have been bowled out once in their last 17
  • Australia have won nine of their last 11 ODIs at Melbourne. England have lost eight of their last 11 against Australia at the venue
  • Brad Haddin needs four runs to become the 18th player to score 3,000 ODI runs for Australia.
  • Eoin Morgan has been dismissed by his last three deliveries in ODIs against Australia.
  • Australia have lost their last two World Cup matches, after winning 32 of their preceding 33 (one tie). They have not lost three consecutive World Cup games since 1979, when they lost the last two games of the 1975 tournament and the first of the 1979.

Quotes

"I'd love to say it would count for something but I honestly don't think it does. I think England have made some really positive changes to the way they chance and their structure. I personally think they look really dangerous."
George Bailey on Australia's recent ODI record over England

"That's rich coming from him."
James Anderson responds to Geoff Boycott's assertion that Eoin Morgan "is not as good as he thinks he is."

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