Opportunity for England to level the series - Fourth ODI preview
England roared back into the Royal London One Day Series in spectacular fashion at Old Trafford on Tuesday evening with a professional performance to see off Australia by 93 runs. They head into Friday’s game at Headingley looking to square the series at 2-2.
England’s victory was built on a fine hundred by James Taylor, his first at international level, and two excellent spells of spin bowling from Adil Rashid and Mooen Ali, who picked up five Australian wickets between them.
It was not a perfect performance from Eoin Morgan’s side, but one they will be thankful for after average displays in the first two ODIs.
For Taylor it was a much-needed innings. After making starts in the previous two games, he needed to push on and make a noticeable score and he did just that with 101 off 114 balls. Taylor is an underrated player who averages over 50 in List A one-day games. This innings showed his obvious talent.
There were also useful contributions from Jason Roy and Eoin Morgan, who made 63 and 62 respectively, but once again England’s middle order failed to fire. At one stage they were looking at a score of 330 plus but lost five for 95 in the last 17 overs.
It is an area they need to resolve at Headingley on a pitch likely to be better suited to the faster men of which Australia have an abundance. Pat Cummins again showed serious pace, clocking 96mph at one stage.
Australia will not feel they bowled badly, although Mitchell Starc went for 79 runs from his 10 overs, the most he has ever conceded in a One Day International. The spinners Ashton Agar and Glenn Maxwell do not pose as much of a wicket-taking threat as Rashid and Ali but they bowled well enough and should play together in Leeds.
It was Australia’s batting that really let them down and the absences of David Warner and Shane Watson due to injury looks to have weakened the line-up somewhat. All the top order batsmen except Joe Burns made starts but no one passed Aaron Finch’s 53.
Captain Steve Smith, George Bailey and Glenn Maxwell all perished to soft dismissals which shows how scoreboard pressure can influence games.
In the previous two matches when batting first, Australia kept wickets in hand and then accelerated in the last 10 overs. On Tuesday, the rate kept rising and wickets resulted as they tried to catch up.
It was in 2009 that Australia last won an ODI in England batting second and setting a target has been a recipe for success so far in this series. The toss on Friday will be all important as both sides will want to bat first.
The spin of Rashid and Ali won England the game by suffocating the Australian middle order. Although Liam Plunkett picked up three wickets late on, the seam attack of Steven Finn, Chris Woakes and Plunkett is too similar. Woakes has not yet picked up a wicket in the series and one of left-armers, David Willey or Reece Topley will get a go in Leeds after the Warwickshire man was ruled out through injury.
Australia are unlikely to make any changes because the injuries to Warner, Watson and Nathan Coulter-Nile have given the squad a threadbare look, robbing Smith of experience and quality options.
Perhaps the only change they could make is to leave Agar out and play one of their seam-bowling all-rounders in Marcus Stonis or John Hastings. It would be tough on Agar after bowling well at Old Trafford and is unlikely.
The weather is set fair for Leeds on Friday, which will please the Yorkshire faithful as three of the last six ODIs at Headingley have been abandoned. England beat India there last season with Joe Root making a hundred, but Australia have not beaten England at Headingley in an ODI since 1981.
England will be cheered on by a boisterous Friday crowd at Headingley, no doubt with the Western Terrace to the fore, but the advantage they had in the spin department in Manchester is likely to be negated in Leeds and this should suit the Australians.
The final game of the series is back at Old Trafford on Sunday and England will feel confident that their superior spinners would give them an advantage there. They would be favourites for a series win as long as they can level the series at Headingley.
Australia will have something to say about that; their defeat at Old Trafford was only their second loss from 18 ODIs in 2015 so expect them to come back hard at England. The world champions are a class act and do not often play badly twice in a row.
England’s win has livened up the series, but without the same help for the spinners as at Old Trafford, Australia’s seam attack has the edge over England’s. This makes them slight favourites but much could depend on who wins the toss.
England: Jason Roy, Alex Hales, James Taylor, Eoin Morgan (captain), Ben Stokes, Jonny Bairstow, Moeen Ali, David Willey, Adil Rashid, Liam Plunkett, Steven Finn
Australia: Aaron Finch, Joe Burns, Steven Smith (captain), George Bailey, Glenn Maxwell, Mitchell Marsh, Matthew Wade, Ashton Agar, Mitchell Starc, Patrick Cummins, James Pattinson
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