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New look teams take each other on in the shortest format

New look teams take each other on in the shortest format
England's Eoin Morgan in action during nets ahead of the Twenty20 International game against Australia in Cardiff.
©REUTERS / Action Images
 

After a fierce Ashes contest, Australia and England now battle in a solitary Twenty20 International game in Cardiff.

Eoin Morgan said ahead of the first One-Day International against New Zealand at Edgbaston nearly two months ago: "For a long time now, we've been behind the eight-ball in one-day cricket. We've fallen behind by a long way and it's time for a catch-up."

England won that five match one-day series 3-2, won the only T20 game against the Black Caps and are now holders of the Ashes. It has been quite a summer.

Undoubtedly, more important than the victories in those heady 14 days of one-day cricket in June, was the manner in which England’s white-ball cricket roared in to the 21st century after being for so long stuck in doldrums.

Let us not forget, it was only earlier this year that Morgan’s men were so desperate in the World Cup in Australia.

England scored over 400 in a ODI for the first time, scored over 300 in four consecutive games and generally looked like a side who had finally worked out that 350 is the new par score in one-day cricket.

The thrilling nature of those games with New Zealand, as well as the feel-good factor from the Ashes win, means that the upcoming one-day games between England and Australia don’t seem like the anti-climax that they have often been in recent years.

Australia triumphed 6-1 and 2-1 respectively in the one-day games that followed the 2009 and 2013 Ashes series, but those games barely stand out for any notable reason, perhaps apart from how dire England were.

Contrast that to the 2005 one-day games which were played before the Ashes as England’s aggressive approach - epitomised by Darren Gough bouncing Andrew Symonds in the T20 game when he was on a hat-trick - gave an indication of what was to come during that brilliant summer.

That series sticks in the memory like the 2009 and 2013 versions do not.

There is pressure on England not so much to deliver victories, although this is of course of paramount importance, but to keep true to the style and aggression they displayed against New Zealand.

The action starts with a T20 on Monday at Cardiff, which in a great initiative is immediately preceded by the final Women’s Ashes T20.

It will be followed by a five-match one-day series crammed into a hectic 11 days.

Morgan will lead a T20 squad containing four players – Moeen Ali, Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler, Steven Finn - from the Ashes-winning Test team, which would have been five had Joe Root not been rested.

Morgan himself has had no competitive cricket since the beginning of August after being given some time off by Middlesex.

He was struggling for form and exhausted after not having a break for almost a whole year. England will need him to display the sparkling form he showed against New Zealand.

The squad is packed with big hitters and Alex Hales, Jason Roy and David Willey, who scored 100 off 40 balls in the NatWest T20 Blast quarter-final, are all in prime form.

Steven Finn will lead the attack and Adil Rashid and Ali are both likely to play on a Cardiff surface expected to take some turn.

In addition, there is a return to the squad after injury for all-rounder Chris Woakes, a maturing cricketer who has been performing well for Warwickshire and Birmingham Bears, and places for James Vince, the Hampshire batsman, and Reece Topley, Essex’s left-arm seamer.

For Australia, after their match in Ireland earlier this week, this is their first outing in one-day cricket since their World Cup triumph. Steven Smith leads a squad that will be missing many familiar names; there is no Michael Clarke or Brad Haddin or Mitchell Johnson.

For the likes of Cameron Boyce, Joe Burns, Nathan Coulter-Nile and Marcus Stonis, it will be a first taste of international cricket in England.

Nonetheless, England will face a strong challenge from a squad containing 11 players with T20 experience in the IPL.

For England, only Morgan and Hales have experience of that competition and only Morgan has actually made the playing XI of an IPL side.

The Australian batting is strong with Smith, David Warner, Shane Watson exceptional T20 players and the dynamic Glenn Maxwell will provide ballast to the middle order.

Smith also has the best white-ball bowler in the world at his disposal in Mitchell Starc, whose ability to deliver swinging yorkers at 90mph is unrivalled.

Along with Coultern-Nile and James Pattinson, he will make up an attack with serious pace.

Left-arm spinner Ashton Agar, famed for his 98 from number 11 that nearly won Australia the game at Trent Bridge in the 2013 Ashes series, will be vying with Boyce, a leg-spinner, for a place in the side, a battle eventually won by Boyce.

Nathan Lyon is unfortunate to have missed out on a place in the squad.

Despite worries over the Cardiff pitch – the game abandoned earlier in the season between Glamorgan and Hampshire was on a different strip – it is likely to be slow and low with an offering of turn.

The average score in completed domestic T20s at the ground this season is only 136.

England have only played two T20 games in Cardiff, both in 2010 against Pakistan. They won both of those games easily but Australia will present a bigger challenge.

England are so far unbeaten this season, having also drawn the Test series against New Zealand. If the same can be said in two weeks’ time, it really will have a been a quite magical summer for English cricket.

Prediction:

This is a tough one to call as both sides are relatively unproven and the nature of International T20s being so sparse means it is hard to predict form.

England have a lot of players who have been playing white-ball cricket domestically throughout August so may have the edge. England to win – just.

Probable Teams:

England: Jason Roy, Alex Hales, Moeen Ali, Eoin Morgan (capt), Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler (wk), Sam Billings, David Willey, Adil Rashid, Steven Finn, Liam Plunkett

Australia have announced their team already.

David Warner, Shane Watson, Steven Smith (capt), Glenn Maxwell, Mitchell Marsh, Marcus Stoinis, Mathew Wade (wk), Nathan Coulter-Nile, Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Cameron Boyce

© Cricket World 2015