England’s limited-overs schedule this summer will truly kick into gear with a one-day international series against Australia.
Eoin Morgan’s side will play five matches in the space of 15 days against the tourists, who are back in action for the first time since the calamitous tour of South Africa earlier this year.
Here, Press Association Sport looks at five talking points ahead of cricket’s oldest rivals going head to head.
Strong and stable
England arguably plumbed new depths at the last World Cup when they exited in the group stages with barely a whimper. Their subsequent transformation has been nothing short of remarkable and six series wins on the spin have taken them to the top of the ODI rankings. While there are plenty of vacancies in the Test team, England’s 50-over side almost chooses itself with only one or two spaces possibly up for grabs. A largely settled line-up is one of the reasons why they are strong contenders to go all the way at next year’s World Cup on home soil.
Hales for Stokes?
There will be one enforced change, at least for the start of the series, as all-rounder Ben Stokes recovers from a hamstring injury. However, England’s deep reserves of talent mean no squad member is irreplaceable. Stokes’ well-publicised legal issues precluded him from England’s ODI series win in Australia earlier this year and, on that occasion, Alex Hales was brought in to further bolster the top order. The Nottinghamshire big-hitter will likely do so again unless England opt for a different approach and choose Sam Billings.
Australia’s new chapter
This tour marks the start of a new era for Australia, who are seeking to rebuild from the ball-tampering scandal in South Africa earlier this year that led to the suspensions of captain Steve Smith and vice-captain David Warner. The tourists are further weakened by the absence of injured fast bowlers Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood, the trio whose presence proved so instrumental in the Ashes. England would have been favourites had the quintet been available but are more overwhelmingly so now.
The ‘L’ word
Australia’s talk of the ‘line’ was as ubiquitous as it was much-maligned and even toxic during the Ashes, so there was a fair degree of schadenfreude when their misdeeds in South Africa were exposed. Australia have attempted to draw a line under the controversy but captain Tim Paine and new head coach Justin Langer have insisted that Australia will continue to sledge on the field. Indeed, Langer claimed that sledging is in Australia’s DNA but warned: “There’s a difference between banter and abuse. There’s no room for abuse anywhere.”