England,August 29;Big Picture ,Any event in the aftermath of an Ashes series has got its work cut out to capture the imagination but a short, sharp Twenty20 series has got a chance, with the World T20 next March adding much-needed relevance. Australia will also be extremely keen to take something home and recent history suggests they are a good bet to do so, with the last three Ashes winners struggling in the limited-overs matches that followed.
But Australia may have to wait until the ODI series to find much-craved success because England’s T20 squad is largely fresh and eager to impress selectors ahead of a global tournament. There are potential places in the ODI team at stake too, with England likely to continue rotation of the players involved in more than one format until preparation for the 2015 ODI World Cup begins in a year’s time.
Australia also need to reverse a poor recent record in bilateral T20 series. Since June 2010, they have only won five of 19 matches. That they managed to defy that form with a run to the semi-final of the World T20 in Sri Lanka was down to a remarkable tournament from Shane Watson and a good showing from the now-retired Mike Hussey.
George Bailey returns to lead the side along with a host of one-day specialists including Mitchell Johnson, the mere mention of whom draws guffaws from England supporters, but his good showing in the Champions Trophy suggests he could earn their respect.
England also change captains with Stuart Broad taking the reins. He has a squad full of players in form having recently played in the Friends Life t20 and closing rounds of the Yorkshire Bank 40. Michael Carberry heads that list after over 500 runs in the Flt20 and is in line for a first international appearance since his solitary Test in Chittagong three years ago. Ravi Bopara has also found his touch and will use the limited-overs internationals to stake a claim for a place on the Ashes tour as a potential No. 6.
Players to watch
It’s a big few weeks for Jos Buttler with the jury very much out on how effective his swashbuckling batting actually is. He will be mostly judged on his performances in the ODIs where there is more doubt on his ability to bat for a long period, but he will like to get in credit during this series. His recent showings in T20s for England – two good knocks in New Zealand and good contributions in India before Christmas – plus Matt Prior’s loss of form also give him some leeway.
Mitchell Starc endured a difficult Ashes series, coming in-and-out of the side and struggling for rhythm. One-day cricket appears to be his strength and his best statistics both internationally and domestically are found in Twenty20. He was superb at the World T20 in Sri Lanka, third-highest of the wicket-takers with 10 dismissals.
England’s T20 squad is largely at full-strength with a host of options in the batting order. Michael Carberry has been called up following a super domestic season and should play one of the two matches in this series. Joe Root gives England another spin option alongside James Tredwell, with the choice of fast bowlers looking between Jade Dernbach and Boyd Rankin.
England (possible) 1 Alex Hales, 2 Michael Lumb, 3 Luke Wright, 4 Eoin Morgan, 5 Joe Root, 6 Ravi Bopara, 7 Jos Buttler (wk), 8 Stuart Broad (capt), 9 Steven Finn, 10 James Tredwell, 11 Jade Dernbach
Australia have an inflated 18-man squad for this series, which will be trimmed to 15 for the ODI series. Adam Voges had a limited Flt20 for Middlesex with the bat but was their most economical bowler and, unless Fawad Ahmed is given a debut, Voges will be relied upon for some slow bowling with Glenn Maxwell also an option. There’s a choice between Aaron Finch and Shaun Marsh for the No. 3 slot with Finch having the better record from his handful of internationals.
Australia (possible) 1 David Warner, 2 Shane Watson, 3 Aaron Finch, 4 George Bailey (capt), 5 Adam Voges, 6 Glenn Maxwell, 7 Matthew Wade (wk), 8 James Faulkner, 9 Mitchell Johnson, 10 Mitchell Starc, 11 Clint McKay
Pitch and conditions
The Ageas Bowl has produced some cracking pitches for T20, none more so than for the Flt20 quarter-final which yielded over 400 runs. No rain is forecast which bodes well for a good evening for a sell-out crowd.
Stats and trivia
Memories will turn back to 2005 when England beat Australia in the only T20 by 100 runs and was seen as a watershed moment for English cricket.
The only other international T20 staged at the Ageas Bowl was in 2006 when Sri Lanka edged England in a tight contest in one of Marcus Trescothick’s last international games.
T20 is still a young game; this will be only the second time Australia have played England in a T20 in England. Both fixtures in 2009 were washed out by rain.
George Bailey, parachuted in as Australia’s new T20 captain in February 2012, has scored only one half-century in his 16 international T20s.
“These guys have performed throughout the county season to get a chance at international level. They wouldn’t be in the squad if they’re not good enough to play and the squad will be very focused on beating Australia.”
England’s T20 captain Stuart Broad defends England’s much-changed squad.
“I’ve no doubt they’d have Mitch in their sights for a couple of those Ashes games particularly given the grounds and his record at some of those grounds.”
George Bailey, Australia’s T20 captain, tips Mitchell Johnson for a Test recall this winter.