England hold edge against Aussies

Two-time defending champions they might be, but Australia are looking more vulnerable than ever as they brace up for their Champions Trophy Group A opener against confident Ashes rivals England here on Saturday.

Their patchy form aside, Aussies have a major worry to deal with as skipper Michael Clarke has been ruled out for morrow’s match.

The inspirational skipper is a crucial cog in the Australian scheme of things given that his batting form has more often than not been the difference between a win and loss for the team in the past few months.

"Michael is making steady progress in his recovery from the recent lower back injury but is yet to return to training," Cricket Australia physiotherapist Alex Kountouris said in a statement. "He will remain in London over the coming days to continue his rehabilitation and will not be available for the first match against England on Saturday."

England, on the other hand, would be looking to flourish in familiar conditions even though they endured an ODI series loss to a rather weak New Zealand just before the Champions Trophy. But an overall assessment of their ODI stats would reveal that since 2010, England have won 23 and lost only 11 of the 37 matches they have played at home.

A look at the team sheets gives a fair idea of just why the hosts would be the favourites. Australia, a team well past its glory days, is struggling to cope with what has been a tormenting transitional phase.

The side’s batting has looked brittle and this frailty was most recently exposed in the warm-up match against India last week when they were bowled out for just 65 runs while a chasing a steep 309. The team would be looking at all-rounder Shane Watson to do quite a lot of scoring after a fine IPL stint with the Rajasthan Royals.

Runs would also be expected from the likes of explosive opener David Warner and Phil Hughes but batting would still be counted as a major weakness of the Australians which every opposition side would look to exploit.

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