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Saturday, September 5
England v Australia
Venue: The Rose Bowl, Southampton | Start: 3:00 AM
England analysis: Now on the back-end of their summer of cricket, England head into the T20 series opener as marginal favourites despite missing key personnel in Jason Roy (injury) and Ben Stokes (personal reasons). Skipper Eoin Morgan has already shifted the pressure back onto his opposing number in Aaron Finch, declaring the Aussies in fact as ‘favourites’ given the strength of the touring squad. Whatever the case, it’s England’s batting that Finch and co will be most worried about this series. While the home side possess a relatively strong unit with the ball, it’s with the bat that they’ll back themselves to either set an unchaseable target, or mow down anything set in the first innings.
Morgan has confirmed that, in the absence of Roy, Jonny Bairstow will partner Jos Buttler at the top of the order. And he was full of praise for the pair when interviewed on Thursday. “We feel that Jason, Jonny and Jos are three of our greatest-ever white-ball players,” Morgan said. “They’re unbelievable strikers of the ball, they’re batsmen that you do not want to bowl against. So if one out of the three of them gets going past the first six overs of the powerplay and into those middle overs it puts us in a really strong position for the last 14.”
Australia analysis: While England are back into the swing of things, Australia haven’t played an international match in any format since March. The six-month layoff has to be the longest in living memory, and could play a factor in Game One. Glenn Maxwell, for example, after scoring an impressive hundred in the inter-team warmup games this week, has had just three hits on turf since the BBL Final in early February. But while it’s been a long time between games, it must be remembered that Australia is currently the number one T20 team in the world. They’ve lost just one of their last 11 games and are arguably more settled than they’ve ever been in the format. Further, they’ve won five of their last seven T20s against England, although each of those wins were on home soil. They haven’t beaten England in enemy territory since 2013.
Regarding selection, it would appear there are nine ‘locks’ in Justin Langer’s side, with only two spots up for grabs at selection. They are the number five position (likely a battle between Mitch Marsh, Matthew Wade and Marcus Stoinis) and the third seamer (between Kane Richardson and AJ Tye). Otherwise, the best XI is largely settled.
Betting: On match sharpness alone, England have an edge over the Aussies. Some of Chris Silverwood’s players (Jofra Archer, Jos Buttler) have been back into the swing of international cricket for two months now. So there might be some rust from a Aussie perspective, but motivation certainly won’t be a factor. By all reports the players are champing at the big to be playing again. So England may just edge Game One, but overall the teams are very evenly matched. For the home side, who retain Buttler as an opener, given his ability with the white ball plus the extra time he’ll spend at the crease, he’s a natural pick for top runscorer. With the ball, look for leg spinner Adil Rashid to cause damage in the middle and later overs. For the tourists, Aaron Finch had two innings of 40+ runs in the three T20 scratch matches, which suggest he’s another good run-scoring tip at the top of the order. Look out for Rashid’s opposite number in Adam Zampa with the ball, whose growing confidence in the shortest format should translate into scalps.
Head to Head: England
Top Runs Scorer – Aust: Aaron Finch
Most Wickets – Aust: Adam Zampa
Top Runs Scorer – Opponent: Jos Buttler
Most Wickets – Opponent: Adil Rashid