England go into the fourth ODI on Saturday against Australia with the disappointment of the wash-out in the third match of the five-game series at Edgbaston earlier this week. The hosts needed to sweep the series 5-0 to get to the top of the ODI rankings, but the wash-out means that even if they win the remaining two matches they can’t displace Michael Clarke’s team.
The other disappointing news is that offspinner Grame Swann, who has played a key role in the team’s upward growth in all three formats in the last couple of years, has been ruled out of the remainder of the series on account of an elbow injury. That this doesn’t affect England’s tag as favorites for the Chester-le-Street is an indication of how dominant they’ve been over the Australians.
England’s batting has been really good in the series so far. Ian Bell, the captain Alastair Cook, Jonathan Trott, Ravi Bopara and Eoin Morgan all have scored runs in spades and that’s where they look superior to Australia. England’s bowlers too have been on the ball. James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Steven Finn have been a handful. With Swann out of the picture now, Kent offspinner James Tredwell is likely to get a game on Saturday. Also, pacer Chris Woakes is expected to replace Jade Dernbach, who pulled out of the series after the second ODI on account of a side strain.
The visitors will find it difficult to come back in the series but the first step must be to win to ensure the final game in Manchester does not become a dead rubber. To achieve that, they will need a much stronger batting performance than they showed at Lord’s and the Oval, where they made 257 for 9 and 251 for 7 respectively.
David Warner, Shane Watson, Clarke, George Bailey all have been among runs, but there has been a lack of a big innings. In the bowling department, Brett Lee has been impressive but only in patches. Mitchell Johnson, and Clint McKay too have been, put it simply, inconsistent.
The series is under the spotlight as many believe it will give an idea as to who holds the upper hand in the time-honoured Ashes next year. If England go on to win the remaining matches, it will be a morale-booster of gigantic proportions. For Australia, it will be the other way around.
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 James Tredwell, 9 Stuart Broad, 10 Chris Woakes, 11 Steven Finn
Australia: 1 Shane Watson, 2 David Warner, 3 David Hussey, 4 George Bailey, 5 Michael Clarke (capt), 6 Peter Forrest, 7 Matthew Wade (wk), 8 Brett Lee, 9 Clint McKay, 10 Mitchell Johnson, 11 Xavier Doherty