England vs Australia: ex-rivals both seek first blood ahead of Ashes to bring T20 World Cup to life
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Passing past Sri Lanka in Australia on Thursday night, it was tempting to see Saturday’s clash with England against a backdrop of ash.
With five Tests to come and, who knows, maybe another match in the final of this tournament, this is the first of seven possible matches this winter.
Admittedly, these two suddenly seem very likely to come out of Group 2, with a semi-final spot almost confirmed for the winners on Saturday.
Australia has a strong multi-format core that England will see a lot this winter. On Thursday, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins (at 28, the youngest player in their XI) were all excellent with the ball, while Steve Smith – as is pretty standard in the Ashes – was not dismissed.
Even David Warner scored a few points, which was rare in the later Ashes and even rarer in recent times. The last thing England need over the next few months is a belligerent Warner class player hitting his straps, and he looked freer against Sri Lanka, although goalkeeper Kusal Perera managed a remarkably easy to take at 18.
“Most of the squad are quite different from the England Test squad, but it’s still huge [playing them]”Cummins said on Friday.” They’ve been pretty much the fit team over the last few years in white ball cricket. It’s a huge game, we know these guys really well, we know it t is such an important game in the context of these semi-finals.
“There are a few players who will come out this summer [for the Ashes] on this side, it will be great to have one against them at the start.
In this format, England are the most confident team, although Australia are also two out of two wins. England’s opponent Sri Lanka on Monday collapsed after a promising start but revealed some gaps in the Australian squad’s balance.
With just four bowling “bankers”, Australia are counting on Glenn Maxwell and Marcus Stoinis (or Mitch Marsh) to share four overs. Sri Lanka attacked them hard, with a six from Maxwell’s first ball. Of their 154 total, those 24 balls went to 51. England will be looking for a repeat, especially if their right-handed hitters – Buttler, Bairstow and Jason Roy – can take it out on Maxwell.
Australia might also want to watch England’s fifth bowler. Moeen Ali is enjoying a great tournament, with four wickets and a saving of five in his seven overs, which have come straight from the start of each game. In addition to the job for which he is there, firing left-handed people, he confuses right-handed people who pursue him.
England’s attack is staged in such a way that Moeen and Liam Livingstone, who also did well against Bangladesh, split four overs. Even if they’re not famous spin players, Australia, stacked with right-handed players, should be less forgiving, and Eoin Morgan could end up with less wiggle room. He might be tempted to bring in David Willey for a batter.
Much therefore rests on the shoulders of the two wrist spinners, Adil Rashid and Adam Zampa. The much improved Australian was formidable Thursday night, taking two for 12 on his four overs.
Both teams will be happy with their debut in the tournament, but one of them will have to do something new: set a goal. This is a significant drawback when so much is based on the toss; 12 of the last 13 games have been won by the pursuers. This is partly due to the dew in the night games, but also because the couriers were careful.
So far there have been some decent fun dishes, but the tournament calls for a close game – and maybe a high score too. There may be a certain atmosphere, but in most games it doesn’t shine through the broadcast, elements of which are quite outdated during ICC events these days.
Hopefully the old rivals can bring the tournament to life and provide a tasty appetizer for a thrilling winter of cricket.
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