Welcome everyone to the sixth and final second international series this afternoon and this fantastic summer in England. So far, they have won four (both Test series, ODI and Ireland, T20 vs Australia) and one match (T20 v Pakistan). Is it time for them to lose?
After winning the final T20 match, Manchester will move with dynamism. They can pick up Stark, Hazelwood and Cummins – all three if there is a trident. And the middle order of their ropes will suddenly become the steeler for the arrival of Marun Lebuschegan, who makes something sound like Harry Potter and runs like a machine. He just won his first baggy yellow cap this year, but is already 300 runs at an average of 50, and is in his 40s whenever it comes to print.
England’s recent record in this format against Australia is phenomenal, having won 11 of the last 13. But out of two defeats last year, the one won the World Cup group match at Lord’s before losing the semi-final at Sebastian. And on Tuesday, when they were under pressure after not scoring many runs, England’s fielding fell apart.
That said, they also have strength. Back comes Jose Butler, in the form of his life. Behind, presumably, comes Eoin Morgan, the white-ball brawler – no one would dare put a butter-finger on the face of his icy glare. And that’s where the order root is, to bring calm and flow to the top order: if it had been there another night, England would probably have won.
Chris Vokes returns to show that, even in a powerplay environment, a bowler can be a model of consistency. That makes Joffra Archer a better foil than Mark Wood, whose role now turns into sparks flying in the middle overs. And England should take Jason Roy back from injury, although he could go both ways. Will it be the guy who eats uss c white-ball bowlers (17 games, three hundreds, average 49, strike rate 115) for dinner, or the guy who can’t buy a run from a lockdown with a score of 0, 24, 0? , 1, 4 and 14?
The pitch is expected to be a slow turner – north of England with a strong push from South Asia. It should suit Adil Rashid, whose googly is weakening old men and women on their knees. Rashid has become the first man to dismiss Steve Smith this week Twice in T20 internationals, When he was already the only one to fire her Five times in ODIs. Since the beginning of March, Smith has failed to reach fifty in nine innings (for Cummins’ XI as well as for Australia), which certainly means the big hundred are imminent.
It all looks so delicious. The game starts at 1pm, and the weather should be dry enough if not exactly hot. I will come only after 12.30 with toss and teams.
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