Australia’s tour of England is about to begin its final phase as the One-Day International (ODI) series between the sides is upon us. Most of what has gone by had been predicted, although it did not transpire in the manner of the prediction. Shrikant Shankar writes about what to expect from the ODIs after a gruelling Ashes 2013.
When Australia came to England at the end of May for what would be a long, long summer, everyone had written and said that this would be one of their toughest tours; it has been in many ways. First, Australia bowed out of the Champions Trophy group stages without a win. Then the Ashes series was about to commence and the sharks were out, baying for blood. After two Test matches, they got what they wanted. Then in the next three Tests, England got flak despite winning one and drawing the other two. In the end England won the series 3-0.
Then followed the Twenty20 International (T20I) series, which ended 1-1. The first T20I turned out to be Australia’s first win of the tour. Now the One-Day International (ODI) series begins with the first match in Leeds on September 6. Barring David Warner’s exclusion, Australia have named a strong squad. England, though, have named a completely weak side. They rested five key players for the ODIs.
So, with a weakened England team and a strong Australian side, what would the series provide for the fans and the others? Let’s take a look at what to expect from the five-match ODI series between England and Australia:
Kevin Pietersen to win England a match on his own
Kevin Pietersen is a unique cricketer in more than one way. He can amaze everyone with some of the strokes he plays and also confound them with the same. He is one of the most destructive batsmen in modern cricket and a young Australian bowling attack will learn that quickly. Pietersen also has the tendency to go through an entire series with just one innings of note — and in-turn be a very important knock. He mostly does not begin a series with a bang, but somewhere in the middle or right at the end, Pietersen shows his true class and value to the tem. Expect to see one century from Pietersen and two decent outings with the bat. He is also expected to flop in a couple of matches.
Australia to win the series
England are a considerably weaker side as compared to Australia. They rested five key players in Alastair Cook, James Anderson, Stuart Broad, Ian Bell and Graeme Swann. Australia have almost named a full-man squad barring injuries. The only notable absentee who is not injured is David Warner. Australia have shown a marked improvement after the first two Test matches. Most of the members of the ODI squad have not been part of the Ashes loss. They can play without any scarring and freely. England have taken this ODI series lightly, but Australia most certainly have not. Expect them to win the series — whether be 5-0, 4-1 or 3-2. Rain may affect some results and the final scoreline may be different, but Australia are the better side.
Aaron Finch to continue fireworks, but sparingly
Not many knew about Aaron Finch in England before August 29, 2013. He broke all sorts of records in the first T20I against England in Southampton. His knock of 156 is now the highest individual score in T20Is. The century he scored was also the second fastest of all-time. He smashed 14 sixes, which in itself is another world record for a T20I match. He also got a century against Scotland in the one-off ODI. Finch is definitely in good form and will look to continue that into the ODIs. But England will devise strategies to counter him. Finch predominantly scores on the leg side — 103 of his 156 runs came on the leg side. Expect some fireworks from the Aussie, but not in all matches. But when it all clicks together, it will be exciting to watch.
Joe Root to shoulder responsibility in senior’s absence
Joe Root has impressed everyone so far in his fledgling international career. Apart from the 180 at Lord’s, Root had a quiet Ashes series. But he looked a fine prospect for England during in the T20I series. His 49-ball unbeaten 90 was in no way comparable to Finch’s 156. But Root showcased that he can play a brilliant, yet composed innings in T20 cricket. He hardly looked rushed during his innings but scored very quickly. He hit 13 fours and one six, but it was effortless. A strike-rate of nearly 184 is extraordinary in T20 cricket and still no one seems to notice it. That is what Root brings to the table. He can play all three formats and is a more conventional batsman. Expect him to get some good scores and guide England, especially when some important seniors are out.
England’s litmus test against Fawad Ahmed
England have supposedly always struggled against leg-spin. Shane Warne was a chief tormentor of England, but there have been others who have troubled them. Anil Kumble, Stuart MacGill and even Piyush Chawla boast impressive records against England. Now the new leg-spinner in world cricket is Fawad Ahmed. The Pakistan-born Ahmed looked nervous in Australia’s first T20I and conceded 43 runs in four overs. In the second match, he looked much more relaxed and picked up three wickets and gave away only 25 runs in four overs. The pitches in England at the moment are flat and will help the batsmen. But expect Ahmed to get into his groove and rekindle the notion that England struggle against leg-spin.
(Shrikant Shankarpreviously worked with Mobile ESPN, where he did audio commentary for many matches involving India, Indian Premier League and Champions League Twenty20. He has also written many articles involving other sports for ESPNSTAR.com. You can follow him on Twitter @Shrikant_23)