After losing the first ODI of the five-match series at Lord's by 15 runs, Australia need to put in a far improved performance to prevent England taking a 2-0 series lead at The Oval on Sunday.
Australia shone in spurts in the first match but faltered during crunch moments. Eoin Morgan cudgeled their bowlers in the last five overs to propel England to a strong total; Matthew Wade dropped Alastair Cook and Patrick Cummins grassed a tough, but not impossible, return catch of Jonathan Trott; during the run-chase, Wade’s run-out left Australia out of the equation.
Michael Clarke, having eased to a half-century, would be ruing the fact that he did not complete the task while David Warner too failed to convert a fifty into a big innings as he has a penchant for big scores. George Bailey, promoted to No. 3, looked solid off the back foot but wasn’t as convincing on the front foot. David Hussey’s lean spell since the CB Series continued and especially in the absence of his brother Michael, the team will expect much more from him. And just why Australia fielded Steven Smith but didn’t bowl him, and then batted him ahead of Wade at No. 6, was confounding.
The visitors will need a far better batting effort to prevent England taking a 2-0 series lead at The Oval on Sunday.
Australia also have concerns with the ball, especially because the runs they leaked in the death overs. Brett Lee looked pedestrian in the final stages of England’s innings, while Cummins had one poor over that dented his figures, so Mitchell Johnson, James Pattinson and Ben Hilfenhaus must be eying a place in the team.
England will draw a lot of positives from Lord’s. Before the series started, there were murmurs that the batting order was too reliant on the top order, and questions were being asked of Morgan after a wretched series against Pakistan in the UAE. But on Friday, after England had been reduced t0 121 for 3, the middle order stood up. Morgan and Trott shored up the innings and then in the later stages, Craig Kieswetter completed a rampant Morgan who displayed his big-hitting prowess. The other plus was the innings from Trott – who had not scored an ODI fifty since October – that played a big part in England putting up a match-winning total.
England will closely monitor the fitness of James Anderson, who picked up a groin strain at Lord’s, but they have plenty of options in the bowling department. Steven Finn has been England's most successful ODI bowler in the last 12 months and lived up to his billing in the series opener, while Stuart Broad and Tim Bresnan did their job efficiently. Bresnan generated a hint of reverse-swing to trap Australian captain Michael Clarke in front of the wicket, and Broad claimed two lower-order wickets to snuff out any hopes of a late assault.
What Australia can take some encouragement from is their record at The Oval. They have played nine matches England here and won seven; their last four encounters here has resulted in victory over the hosts. The last time, Clarke scored an unbeaten 99 to help set up a match-winning 290. England’s last three ODIs at The Oval have also resulted in wins – against Sri Lanka, India and West Indies.
Traditionally, The Oval has always been a belter, with sides often being able to chase with confidence. It has been raining in London for the last couple of days so the team winning the toss tomorrow might just op to bowl first if conditions are overcast.
England: 1 Alastair Cook (capt), 2 Ian Bell, 3 Jonathan Trott, 4 Ravi Bopara, 5 Eoin Morgan, 6 Craig Kieswetter (wk), 7 Tim Bresnan, 8 Stuart Broad, 9 Graeme Swann, 10 Steven Finn, 11 Jade Dernbach
Australia: 1 David Warner, 2 Shane Watson, 3 George Bailey, 4 Michael Clarke (capt), 5 Peter Forrest, 6 David Hussey, 7 Matthew Wade (wk), 8 Brett Lee, 9 Clint McKay, 10 Patrick Cummins, 11 Xavier Doherty