Leeds: England and Ireland both competed in one-off ODIs against Associate-level opposition on the same day earlier this week, but at the back of their minds both teams would have had each other as the priority. The first of five ODIs starts at Headingley on Friday, and both teams will be keen to kickstart the series with a win.
Following a controversial Ashes series which the hosts won 3-1, and a tied Twenty20 international series, England and Australia made brief northward trips to Dublin and Scotland respectively to play against the hosts. While Australia had few hassles in knocking aside Scotland by 200 runs after their latest opening pair put on a national record for the opening wicket, England were made to struggle in the field and earlier in their chase against Ireland before they were bailed out by two centurions. Now, they resume their battles against each other.
For Australia, opener Aaron Finch is the man in form. He smacked a record-breaking 156 in the first T20I against England last week and against Scotland he smashed his maiden ODI century in a record opening stand of 246 with Shaun Marsh, who also scored three figures. Finch, 26, has been given this series to try and hold down his place after David Warner was sent home and has admitted that his T20I knock, which included the most sixes in an innings, has given him the confidence that he belongs.
With Marsh and Watson, Australia have a strong top order followed by skipper Michael Clarke, George Bailey and Adam Voges. Watson is coming off a middling Ashes but as an ODI player he remains an explosive entity with bat and ball. Clarke has not scored an ODI century since March 2012 and would be eyeing some runs against England, especially after the Test series loss. Like Marsh, Voges is another batsman trying to grab his opportunities and become a fixture in the ODI squad.
The bowling will pace-reliant, with Mitchell Johnson, Clint McKay and James Faulkner the frontline quick men followed by Watson's medium pace. Pakistani asylum seeker Fawad Ahmed made his ODI debut against Scotland, taking 1 for 39 in 10 overs, and looks set to continue as the first-choice spinner especially after his three-wicket haul in the second T20I against England.
The hosts, led by Eoin Morgan for this series with five Ashes-winner rested, were off-colour with the ball in Dublin. Going into the match with just three frontline bowlers - Steven Finn, James Tredwell and the former Ireland quick Boyd Rankin, on debut for his new country - nearly cost England as Ireland made 269 for 7. Against a stronger Australian side, the bowling will have to be better than it was in that match.
That England won by six wickets after slumping to 48 for 4 owed to splendid unbeaten centuries from Morgan and Ravi Bopara. The pair added 226 for in 28 overs, a record fifth-wicket stand in ODIs and England's joint second-best for all wickets. It was Bopara's first hundred in the format, and came in 74 balls. That two of England's top four were debutants who flopped - Michael Carberry made 10 and Gary Balance 0 - and one of their opening experiments, Luke Wright, made just 5, will be a concern. Ballance is likely to be replaced by Kevin Pietersen who will play his first ODI since January.
The last time these two teams met in ODI cricket, England won all four matches at home in 2012. Head-to-head at Headingley, both teams have won two matches over the other.
England: 1 Michael Carberry, 2 Luke Wright, 3 James Taylor, 4 Kevin Pietersen, 5 Eoin Morgan (capt), 6 Ravi Bopara, 7 Jos Buttler (wk), 8 Ben Stokes, 9 James Tredwell, 10 Steven Finn, 11 Boyd Rankin
Australia: 1 Aaron Finch, 2 Shaun Marsh, 3 Shane Watson, 4 Michael Clarke (capt), 5 George Bailey, 6 Adam Voges, 7 Mathew Wade (wk), 8 Fawad Ahmed, 9 Mitchell Johnson, 10 James Faulkner, 11 Clint McKay