In Friday’s first ODI between England and Australia, the visitors – despite finding themselves 123/5 in the first innings at one stage – came back strongly to take a 1-0 lead in the three-match series.
While Australia recovered well with the bat after losing their first five wickets, it was their bowling that stood out. The top performance with the ball came from Josh Hazlewood who took three wickets for 26 runs in 10 overs.
One look at Hazlewood’s ODI statistics and you will wonder as to why he hasn’t been a regular member of Australia’s 50-over team in the recent past. In 49 ODIs, he has taken 81 wickets at an average of 25 and a strike rate of 31.9 – truly impressive numbers. He was also part of the team that won the ODI World Cup in 2015 but wasn’t part of the squad in the next edition four years later.
Since making his debut, in years that he has played at least two ODIs, he has averaged more than 26 just once and that year was 2018. That, along with the plethora of top pace-bowling options at Australia’s disposal, saw Hazlewood missing out on the world’s premier ODI tournament a year later.
Not only is he a wicket-taker, Hazlewood is also very economical. He has a career economy rate of 4.7 which is superb considering how scoring rates have taken off over the last decade.
In Jason Roy, Jonny Bairstow and Joe Root, England possess some serious firepower at the top of their batting order. It’ll be fascinating to see how the trio tackle Australia’s pace attack which consists of not just Hazlewood but two other world-class bowlers in Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins.
Root’s contest against Hazlewood could be particularly interesting. The opening game of this series saw the Australian seamer get the better of the Yorkshireman for the third time in ODIs (from just 41 deliveries).
While the usual suspects, apart from Bairstow, failed with the bat, Sam Billings’ innings would have come as a source of huge encouragement for the hosts. The 29-year-old, after a couple of impressive performances against Ireland, notched up his first international hundred and gave England hope on Friday. If he can carry on this form, it adds muscle to an already strong England batting line-up.
On the other hand, Australia’s highly consistent openers – David Warner and Aaron Finch – also did not make big contributions in the first ODI. And it was the duo of Mitchell Marsh and Glenn Maxwell whose 126-run sixth-wicket partnership that was key to Australia putting up a winning total on the board.
With Steve Smith having passed a second concussion test, he is likely to come into the playing eleven for the visitors. And it’ll be interesting to see who makes way for him. While Marsh scored 73 and took one wicket in the first ODI, Marcus Stoinis made a quick-fire 43 from just 34 deliveries. But either might have to sit out on Sunday.
If Smith does come back into the team, his contest against Adil Rashid in the middle overs – if it happens – could be one to look out for. The former Australian skipper has been dismissed five times in 11 innings and averages just 19.8 against the English legspinner in ODIs. During the T20I series too, Rashid got the better of Smith once.
Australia would have been pleased with the bowling performance of Adam Zampa in the first ODI. After a couple of below-par performances in the T20Is, Zampa took four wickets – crucial ones at that – on Friday. The Australian legspinner had endured a tough time against England in the 50-over format in the past, having taken just two wickets from five matches before Friday’s game, so this was a welcome change for him and the team from Down Under.
Meanwhile, Jofra Archer and Mark Wood troubled Australia’s batsmen – taking three wickets apiece – and their battles against the away team’s top-order will be fascinating once again.
When Australia last visited England for a bilateral ODI series, they were defeated 5-0. That series in 2018, which came a few months after Sandpapergate, saw Australian cricket plummet to new lows. A year after, they made a strong statement by retaining The Ashes in England for the first time in 18 years. Two years since that 5-0 whitewash, they now have the chance to win an ODI series on English soil. What a big difference a couple of years make!
England will make certain that Australia’s task isn’t an easy one though. Morgan’s side will be eager to come back strongly and show the Australians why they are the reigning world champions. England haven’t lost an ODI series consisting of at least three matches since January 2017 and they wouldn’t want that run to stop now, least of all against arch-rivals Australia.
England: Eoin Morgan (C), Jason Roy, Jonny Bairstow, Joe Root, Jos Buttler, Tom Banton, Sam Billings, Moeen Ali, Chris Woakes, Adil Rashid, Jofra Archer, Mark Wood, Tom Curran, Sam Curran
Australia: Aaron Finch (C), David Warner, Steve Smith, Marnus Labuschagne, Marcus Stoinis, Mitchell Marsh, Alex Carey, Matthew Wade, Josh Philippe, Glenn Maxwell, Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Adam Zampa, Josh Hazlewood, Kane Richardson, Nathan Lyon, Sean Abbott, Ashton Agar, Andrew Tye, Riley Meredith, Daniel Sams