January 26 is Australia Day. It’s a celebration Down Under marked by festivities and, from a sports perspective, highlighted by the annual tradition of international cricket at the Adelaide Oval. It’s an occasion filled with plenty of cheer and goodwill – positive characteristics a slumping Australian team will hope spur them during the dead rubber ODI against England.
Traditionally, Australia have been inspired on their national day; they have only lost once in six corresponding fixtures against England. Perhaps the occasion can once again fuel them in a desperate bid to end a major rut in the 50-over arena.
Embarrassingly for such a perennial powerhouse, Australia have been soundly beaten by England on three straight occasions to ensure they will be merely playing for pride in the series final matches in Adelaide and Perth.
Exacerbating their chances of avoiding a humiliating whitewash, Australia will be without standout batsman Aaron Finch in Adelaide and possibly in Perth due to a minor hamstring injury. Finch has been a one-man show amid Australia’s misfiring top-order and likely to be replaced by local hero Travis Head, who was dropped after failures in the opening two games.
Selectors have numerous options to plug alongside opener David Warner, with veteran batsman Cameron White and wicketkeeper Tim Paine possible candidates. If Head is overlooked, Glenn Maxwell, the seemingly out of favour all-rounder, will make a surprising comeback after being a late cover for Finch.
If, as expected, Head gets the nod, the rest of Australia’s line-up will be unchanged with White at No. 3 and Smith settling into No. 4 in a bid to play the role of batting fulcrum – which he struggled to perform in a meandering effort in game three.
Smith and Warner’s struggles in the series have been at the core of Australia’s middling output with the bat, and the pair will be expected to break out of rare form ruts. For so long, the leaders have performed the heavy lifting of Australia’s batting across the formats and rarely have struggled simultaneously. On an expected traditional flat Adelaide Oval wicket, Smith and Warner will need to fire to curtail a confident England team intent on inflicting a dose of revenge after their Ashes calamity.
England have played almost flawless cricket over the opening three matches and deservedly their 50-over outfit are being gushed about as the next World Cup looms on home soil. England’s explosive and deep batting reservoir appear almost unstoppable; even Australia’s all-conquering Ashes pace attack were at sixes and sevens at the death against a rampaging Jos Buttler in Sydney.
Less flamboyant, England’s bowling has done a masterful job at containing an Australian batting line-up which, on paper, contains plenty of class and heavy-hitters. Mark Wood has added necessary speed juxtaposed nicely by cunning spinner Adil Rashid’s trickery. Australia have had their moments with the bat but, unlike the Ashes, been unable to dictate in a major tick for England’s attack.
England, moulding into a formidable 50-over force, have the right balance throughout the line-up with every player seemingly executing their roles to perfection. It’s arguably the best touring ODI team to visit Australia since a talented South Africa hammered Australia 4-1 in 2008-09.
Marked by emerging ruthlessness, the tourists will be aiming to play party pooper on Australia Day.
When: Friday, January 26, 2018; 1.50PM local, 8.50AM IST
Where: Adelaide Oval, Adelaide
What to expect: The match will be played in the midst of a heatwave in Adelaide with temperatures set to hit 38 degrees. There are plenty of runs expected on the Adelaide Oval wicket, which traditionally is batting friendly. The trend in the series is for the captain to bowl after winning the toss but that is almost sure to end in Adelaide.
Australia: Australia will be without Finch with Head most likely to open meaning the rest of the line-up will remain unchanged from Sydney, which was the tightest game of the series. After being seemingly on the outer, Maxwell has been recalled but is unlikely to force his way back into the starting line-up.
Probable Australia XI: David Warner, Travis Head, Cameron White, Steve Smith (c), Mitchell Marsh, Marcus Stoinis, Tim Paine (wk), Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, Adam Zampa
England: Quick Liam Plunkett injured his left hamstring in game three and is unlikely to feature in the rest of the series. Seamer Tom Curran, who debuted in the Ashes, is likely to replace Plunkett.
Probable England XI: Jason Roy, Jonny Bairstow, Alex Hales, Joe Root, Eoin Morgan (c), Jos Buttler (wk), Moeen Ali, Chris Woakes, Adil Rashid, Tom Curran, Mark Wood
Did you know
– Australia have won their past three ODIs at the Adelaide Oval after losing 4 of 5 previously.
– England’s last three ODIs in Adelaide have been nail-biting affairs. They enjoyed a 21-run victory over Australia in 2011 but lost three years later by five runs. Most famously, England were upset by Bangladesh by 15 runs in the 2015 World Cup.
– Warner has struggled in the series but smashed his highest ODI score of 179 in the corresponding fixture against Pakistan one year ago.
What they said
“We haven’t been able to put it together. We have got to try to find ways to get over the line,” – Steve Smith, the Australian captain.
“I think the overall feeling in the group is a happy place but at the same time we are not totally satisfied with the outcome yet. I think we are searching for that perfect game that everyone keeps talking about,” Mark Wood, the England spearhead.