Sunday, 8 April 2007

Preview: England vs Australia

Following Bangladesh's brilliant win over the Proteas yesterday the World Cup has been thrown wide open again. West Indies, Bangladesh and of course England are now in with a shout of qualifying for the semi-finals, most likely at the expense of South Africa. The South Africa vs England game is likely to be the key game which decides qualification for England, but a victory here against the old enemy would really set them up well for that encounter and take them level on points with the South Africans. Top order woes persist for England and it seems as though Duncan Fletcher has finally had enough and is willing to recall a rested, but matchless, Andrew Strauss for Ed Joyce, who has yet to convince he belongs. Michael Vaughan, as captain and now part time spinner, is assured of his place, despite woeful form with the bat and Ian Bell, though slow in scoring, has nevertheless shown an ability to stay at the crease and score runs.

Many would love to see England revamp their batting order, with either Kevin Pietersen or Ravi Bopara thrown in at number three to increase the early run scoring during the powerplays. Ian Bell often plays spin quite well and would probably do well at four, able to rebuild after a collapse, or score at his slower accumalation pace outside of the fielding restrictions. Andrew Flintoff certainly needs to improve his form with the bat, because on current form he looks no more than a number eight batsman and should not be batting above seven. Prehaps a flexible line-up of Strauss, Vaughan, Pietersen, Bell, Collingwood, Bopara, Flintoff, Nixon and Plunkett would be a good option for England to explore. Flexibility is key, as has often been said and England need to show more of it, not just sticking to a rigid batting line-up and throwing Flintoff in at 25 overs, whilst Bopara would be more suited for example.

Australia want to knock England out, but they can not do that in this match now, thanks to Bangladesh. England can though take a massive step towards qualification with victory, victory that would be made all the more sweeter following John Buchanan's verbal attack. One man who may have more to say than most, as usual, is Glenn McGrath, playing prehaps his last game against England and few would bet against him to go out in style, though KP will be eager to avenge his rib injury.

Prediction: With Andrew Symonds back Australia are a stronger side than the one which lost the CB series. However, minus Brett Lee, the bowling is weaker and should Brad Hodge be played in place of the injured Shane Watson, there will be overs for England to exploit from the likes of Michael Clarke and Symonds. England know how to beat Australia, but the Aussies have long memories as the latest Ashes series showed. I'm still going for England!

Players to watch: Kevin Pietersen is the talisman and will feature if England win, also watch out for Andrew Symonds' allround contribution.

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