Both Eoin Morgan (left) and Steven Smith (right) have had a crucial role to play for their sides © Getty Images
Both Eoin Morgan (left) and Steven Smith (right) have had a crucial role to play for their sides © Getty Images

England and Australia will play the fifth and final match of the five-match One-Day International (ODI) series at Old Trafford. With the series leveled at 2-2, both teams will eyeing a defining finish to the series. Nikhil Popat identifies the key battles during the game which could go onto decide the course of it.

The summer of 2015 has been a good one for England post the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015. They were kicked out of the tournament by a resurgent Bangladesh side but the fortunes have changed for them, starting with the home series win against the semi-finalists New Zealand. England drew the Test series 1-1 but won the ODI series 3-2 playing a refreshingly positive brand of cricket. Their approach has paid rich dividends and it was evident in the way they came back in the series after being 0-2 down after the opening encounters of the one-dayers. If they go on to win the decider, it would mean that they have not lost a single series in the entire home summer. Live cricket scorecard: England vs Australia 2015, 5th ODI at Old Trafford

England won back the urn winning the Ashes 2015 by a margin of 3-2 which lead to a lot of retirements in the Australian camp. The visitors have been bothered by a plethora of injuries as well. David Warner, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Shane Watson were all ruled out during the course of the ODI series which led to a revamp of the side for the new captain in Steven Smith. After a convincing performance in the first two games, the Australian side has lacked that bite and as they look forward to facing the in-form hosts, they know they will have to be at their best to beat this ‘New England’ side.

The following could be the five key battles going into the decider at Old Trafford, Manchester.

Alex Hales vs Pat Cummins: The England opener has been caught in a poor run of form. Alex Hales’ scores in the four ODIs so far read 22, 18, 9, 0. The numbers do not make a good reading and for his potential both he and England will want him to come good. He’s been troubled the most by Pat Cummins who has been relentless in his approach. The pace and swing and the extra bounce from Cummins has had Hales in trouble. Both teams will look to get the upper hand early,  and if Hales can get the better of Cummins for a change, England will be more than happy.

Eoin Morgan vs Glenn Maxwell: Eoin Morgan has refreshingly led the England side forward with positive stroke-play. His approach has allowed England batsmen to play with a sense of freedom. Morgan’s scores in the series speak volumes of his impact on the side. In the four ODIs so far, his lowest score is 38 which came in the first ODI and has scored three fifties in a row. Each of his last three dismissals though have had one a pattern—the Australian all-rounder, Glenn Maxwell. In the third ODI, it was Maxwell the bowler but in the other two games, Maxwell has taken splendid catches to deny Morgan centuries. Australia will hope that Maxwell continues to get better of Morgan. Maxwell’s spin will also be important on a deck which is likely to assist the spin bowlers.

Steven Smith vs David Willey: It was David Willey who rocked Australia at the top in the fourth ODI at Leeds. Smith will have his work cut out when he comes out to bat at No. 3 for Australia. Willey’s three wickets at the top had dented Australia and Smith will hope to not get trapped in the set up again and lead his team from the front with the bat. Smith’s form has been indifferent in the series. He also stressed on the fact that there has been no one who has played the big knock for them, scoring a century. Most of their players have had starts but have not been able to convert them. Being the skipper, Smith will surely want to lead the way and help Australia win the ODI series.

Glenn Maxwell vs England spinners: Glenn Maxwell, ever since the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 in Australia, has shown good account for his potential. He has not been going for his glory shots right from the word go but has been patient enough to get himself in. He has played his natural game but given himself enough time to get used to the conditions. He though has been having problems facing the England spinners. Both Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali have troubled him to an extent and with the pitch likely to assist the spinners, it will be a crucial part of the battle between the two sides. Australia have had trouble facing spin bowling this series but if Maxwell takes up the mantle to dent the confidence of the two tweakers for England, it would be ideal for the visitors.

Mitchell Marsh vs Ben Stokes: The battle of the two all-rounders could be a crucial factor in the heat of the deciding clash. Both Marsh and Stokes have had their opportunities but have let their team down at times. Marsh though has had success with the ball and Stokes, who showed good form during the Test series will want to emulate and even outdo his Australian counter-part. With Marsh, it will be on the batting front that Australia will want him to come good. Marsh has often been part of the Australian middle-order collapse which has not helped his cause one bit. As both teams look for a clinical performance, how their all-rounders fare will be crucial.

(Nikhil Popat is a diehard cricket enthusiast and a PotterHead till the end of time. He can be followed on Twitter @CricCrazyNIKS)