A few days ago, the significance of the encounter between England and Australia at Lord’s seemed limited to their age-old rivalry. But Sri Lanka’s victory over England on Friday has given the meaning to this game that the World Cup deserved from such a high profile contest. Australia may feel safe with 10 points in the bag after five games but England now needs to battle it out to keep their spot in the Top 4 after surprise defeats at the hands of Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
They would like to register two more wins from their remaining three games but Australia, India and New Zealand stand in their way.
England has left themselves with no time to rectify the mistakes they made in an embarrassing performance against Sri Lanka, one of which was a change in batting approach. Chasing a modest target, England batted with a cautious approach, a run-rate of 4.38, their lowest batting run-rate in 2019. That did not work and they will want to switch back to their power-hitting mode that took the Aussies by surprise when they last toured England in 2018.
Even the Aussie skipper, Aaron Finch is aware of the threat that a wounded England side possess. “If you look at England’s record over the last couple of years, I think I read something the other day that they haven’t lost back-to-back ODIs in England for quite some time, and if you look at their trend, they tend to bounce back and go ultra-aggressive, as well”, said Finch in the press meet on the eve of the game.
But England will be missing Jason Roy in their quest to put pressure on the bowlers. Their template of laying the platform for a big total by putting runs on the board within the first powerplay has clearly suffered in Roy’s absence.
James Vince, his replacement has failed to live up to expectations so far and has instead, turned out to be the only weak link in a batting line-up in which every other batsmen has delivered a big score at some point in the tournament.
The importance of a solid performance by Vince is underlined by the fact that England has lost each time when they have lost more than one wicket during the first powerplay in this tournament, against Pakistan and Sri Lanka, thereby, exposed the middle-over too early in the innings.
Vince’s form becomes even more critical knowing Eoin Morgan, batting at 4, has an ordinary record against Australia’s prime new-ball bowlers, Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc, averaging 23 and 28.5 against them respectively. At the same time, he has never been dismissed by any other bowler currently in Australia’s line-up except Glenn Maxwell, against whom he has a batting average of 72.5.
Getting through the new ball scare can give England an edge in the contest knowing the Australian bowling attack has failed to capitulate the batting sides outside of Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins.
Moreover, no Aussie bowler has been able to strike in the first 10 overs except Starc and Cummins. As a result, Australia falls in the lower half of the bowling stats table in terms of economy rate (5.15), bowling average (61.8) and bowling strike-rate (72) in the first powerplay. Will it be Starc and Cummins against the destructive English batting?
Moving to the other side of the contest, Australia started their World Cup campaign with a disastrous first 10 overs while batting first against West Indies where they lost four wickets. They found their way through to win that game and haven’t lost a wicket to a bowler within the first 10 overs in the subsequent five games.
However, they have not gone big in the first 10 overs, primarily because of David Warner who has opted to be watchful instead of batting in his well-known blistering style first-up. Aaron Finch, on the other hand has led from the front taking care of the flow of runs.
Warner’s careful approach has kept Australia’s run-rate in the first powerplay down to 4.69 better only to South Africa, India and Afghanistan. In the subsequent Powerplays, however, they have picked up and are only second to the England side with a run rate of 5.82 in 11-40 overs and 8.82 in 41-50 overs.
Considering the batting arsenal on both sides, there are a lot of runs in store at Lord’s on Tuesday. But the bowlers won’t be taking a backseat as well. The game will feature four of the top six wicket-takers in the competition at present - Starc and Jofra Archer (15 wickets in 6 games each), Mark Wood (12 wickets in 5 games) and Pat Cummins (11 wickets in 6 games).
Also, three of the four bowlers mentioned above have maintained an exceptional economy-rate of less than six runs per over during the death overs in this World Cup.
Both sides have the arsenal to fight fire with fire in both batting and bowling department. The only thing that could have been missing from this game, was the relevance of the clash in the context of the World Cup which has been added by Sri Lanka’s miraculous performance in Leeds. The Australian side carries a completely different outlook than the one which toured the UK last year and showed glimpses of it by beating England in the warm-up game.
Ultimately, the game carries all ingredients you need to constitute the best game of the tournament with very little to separate the two sides.
Knowing the way they have played their cricket over the last couple of years, England management may not tinker with their XI despite crumbling in their previous game. Yes, James Vince is short of confidence and Moeen Ali carries the experience of batting at every position in the line-up but the move to push Moeen to opening slot seems highly unlikely. Rest of the players have done enough to retain their spot.
James Vince, Jonny Bairtsow, Joe Root, Eoin Morgan (c), Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler (wk), Moeen Ali, Chris Woakes, Adil Rashid, Jofra Archer, Mark Wood
Australia has been struggling to find the third front-line to support Starc and Cummins. They have tried all their resources, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Jason Behrendorff and Kane Richardson out of which only Richardson has been able to yield some results.
Aaron Finch (c), David Warner, Usman Khawaja, Steve Smith, Glenn Maxwell, Marcus Stoinis, Alex Carey (wk), Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Kane Richardson, Adam Zampa