Australia still the team to beat

Australia still the team to beat

Cricket Triangular series: England hope to cash in on the absence of Warner and Watson

Australia still the team to beat

A lot has happened in the week after Australia took England in their stride in the tri-series opener at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

Australia skipper George Bailey has been suspended for his side’s third match here on Friday after a shoddy over-rate against India at the MCG. David Warner, who struck 127 against England, has been fined by the ICC for letting his mouth run again and he has been released from the team to rest his sore hamstring.

England themselves have recovered from a drubbing from Australia to thrash India in Brisbane on Tuesday and Shane Watson was ruled out of their Friday’s match after the Aussie all-rounder failed to prove his fitness from a hamstring niggle on Thursday.

Injuries, fines and suspensions. A team in trouble? Hardly, if you look at their position in the table where they sit pretty on top with nine points from two matches. It’s as much a tribute to Australia’s bench strength as it is to their ability to cast away distractions that they remain the side to beat in the competition and Friday is no exception when they take on England here at the picturesque Bellerive Oval with an aim to seal their place in the summit clash.

With nine points in their account, the hosts more or less are assured of their berth in the final but a simple win against England would spare them of last-minute’s permutations and combinations.

All-rounder Moises Henriques has been recalled as a cover for the injured Watson but Australia could have done without him as they have enough in the reserves. Mitchell Marsh was back bowling in the nets as was Josh Hazlewood though Australia will not be keen to rush them into action.

Summoned in place of Warner, Shaun Marsh will open the innings while Cameron White may fill in for Bailey. Left-arm spinner Xavier Doherty who was left out for the game against India, may return in place of Watson, making it a 3-1 combination with Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Gurinder Sandhu forming a three-pronged pace attack. 
Starc has been the force behind Australia’s all-win record with 10 wickets from two matches. He has been able to procure prodigious swing with the new white ball and combined with his pace, the left-armer has been disconcerting to pace. Pat Cummins has lent him able an able support while Sandhu showed he can hold his own at the highest level on his debut against India.

Even in the absence of seven of their World Cup-bound players Australia look the favourites on Friday but England would have gained a lot confidence after humbling India by nine wickets.

Much of the credit for England’s domineering win should go to their bowlers who cleaned up the much-vaunted Indian batting for a measly 153. With James Anderson providing their attack the much-needed experience and penetration at the start, English pacemen were all over the Indian batsmen with Steven Finn making the most of it with his maiden five-wicket haul.

In the absence of Warner and Bailey, England attack will fancy its chances against a line-up that is short on game-practice. Shaun Marsh hasn’t played a 50-over game at any level in the last one year while White last played an ODI almost four years ago, in April 2011. Even Henriques’ last appearance for Australia was in January 2013.      

The morale of England’s batting too would have been boosted after they knocked off the required runs against India for the loss of Moeen Ali. Ian Bell and James Taylor, both of whom had been dismissed in the first over against Australia, notched up a half-century each that would keep them in the right frame of mind after a horrible start to the series.

A win here will virtually seal England’s place in the final as it would mean India will have to win both their matches and at least one of them with a bonus point.

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