England are still reveling in their Ashes success while Australia have been quick to forget it, but attention now turns to the shorter formats.
The one-off T20 international takes place in Cardiff on Monday, before the first of five ODIs, starting in Southampton on Thursday. SACricketmag.com discusses some focus points ahead of the encounters.
One eye on the World T20
One T20 sandwiched between an Ashes series and five ODIs struggles to give the match context. But considering Australia haven’t played a T20 since November last year and England have only played one in that period, the match will be seen as a chance for them to flex their muscles ahead of the global showpiece in India in March/April next year. The T20 personnel will change very little for the ODIs, so this is the group of players that England and Australia want to see perform ahead of the World T20, not just in the one-off T20, but in the ODIs too.
Ashes is a thing of the past
Michael Clarke hasn’t played a T20 international since 2010, and Steve Smith is only the stand-in captain for the one-off encounter in Aaron Finch’s absence, but it still gives the feeling that this is where Australia’s new era takes off as they will want to forget about the Ashes and build towards the next one. Smith and new Test vice-captain David Warner will be the go-to men, with Shane Watson providing a bit of experience. But the selectors will be keeping a keen eye on up-and-coming talents like Mitchell Marsh, Joe Burns, Pat Cummins and James Pattinson, as these are the players who will want to immerse themselves in the national setup for years to come.
Age will no longer bog Australia down
A key factor for Australia moving forward, which raised many questions throughout the Ashes, is the age of their players. The shorter-format squads possess only two players over the age of 30 (George Bailey and Watson), as opposed to their Test squad which had 10. Out of those 10, only Chris Rogers walked away from the series with genuine distinction, as the form of Voges, Clarke, Watson and Shaun Marsh, and the untimely absences of Ryan Harris and Brad Haddin, prompted concern surrounding Australia’s depth. The younger players who will feature in the shorter formats will give new hope to Australia’s future.
Will England continue in the same vein?
It wasn’t always pretty, but it was ultimately effective, as England’s revitalised approached to their cricket saw them lift the urn. The role New Zealand played in getting that out of the English can’t be quantified. England scored 300 or more in four of the five ODIs they played against New Zealand, including their highest ever total (408-9). They also won their one-off T20, using virtually the same group that will take on Australia. They will be out to prove that it wasn’t just a flash in the pan.
Can England do it without Root?
A hefty blow to their chances in doing so will be the absence of Joe Root, who will be rested for the series looking ahead to the tour of the UAE against Pakistan. Root has been nothing short of remarkable, who scored 274 runs in that series against the Kiwi’s at an average of 68.5 and a strike rate of 108, before being named Man of the Match in the T20. Then he enjoyed a spell as the world’s No 1 batsman in the Ashes, on his way to being named Player of the Tournament. Moeen Ali is back into the squads, which could see him act as a direct replacement. He will be under a bit of pressure, as a string of bad performances will not only expose Root’s absence, but it could be detriment to his chances of playing higher up the order in the Test matches against Pakistan.