Australia v England: 2nd Twenty20, Friday 14/1 –7.35pm (Local Time) at MCG, Melbourne
FIVE THINGS WE LEARNT FROM THE 1ST TWENTY20:
- England’s psychological edge over the Australians in the test arena has transferred into the limited overs format.
- Australia needs to rediscover self-belief – fast.
- Ian Bell has changed – his aggressive approach to batting is perfectly suited to Twenty20 cricket.
- Eoin Morgan’s assured innings of 43 proved he is an able replacement for Paul Collingwood in England’s test team.
- Despite a breathtaking 59 and an economical four-wicket spell, Shane Watson still needs more support from his teammates if Australia are to win.
Not too many full-grown men would enjoy Shaun Tait bowling 150km per hour bullets to them under bright floodlights. But that’s exactly what awaits England’s batting line-up tonight at the MCG. The 27-year-old always struggled to bowl long spells in the first-class format of the game and recently decided to focus purely on limited overs cricket. Since making that decision, Tait has been one of the first men picked in the Australian Twenty20 team. He hasn’t disappointed either, taking 27 wickets from 18 matches at an impressive average of 17. While Tait can be expensive and somewhat wayward at times – highlighted by a costly four-over spell of 1/40 in Adelaide – he is a match winner. If he can bounce back from the first game by varying his length and bowling with sheer pace, England’s batsmen are in for tough time.
Statistically, it’s far too early to mention Steve Davies and Adam Gilchrist in the same sentence. But there is no doubt the two men have similar characteristics. Like the great Western Australian, Davies is a hardnosed wicketkeeper-batsman who bats left-handed and opens the batting in the shorter forms of the game. The 24-year-old hits the ball hard when the field is up and he loves to keep the scoreboard ticking at the start of the innings. Davies has yet to make a big score for England in a Twenty20 match, but if the ball finds the middle of his bat early on, it might turn out to be the breakout innings he needs to prove he belongs in the England team.
PITCH AND CONDITIONS:
Twenty20 cricket is considered a batsman’s game, but there’s a strong chance the men holding the willow might struggle significantly on the Melbourne wicket tonight. It has been well documented throughout the summer that the MCG pitch has had a little more grass on it than usual. This point was accentuated when England’s pace attack steamrolled Australia for a paltry 98 on the first day of the Boxing Day test. With plenty of moisture underneath the surface due to rain and a humid night expected, this match might be dominated by the bowlers.
There is no doubt Australia has the right cavalry on the field, however it can’t seem to pull it together at the right time. The Aussies continue to not take their opportunities and have now lost five games in a row. Brett Lee was rusty in his comeback game in Adelaide and might be the only man dropped for this game. If he is, Victorian paceman James Pattinson will debut in front of his home crowd and should thrive in the pace-friendly conditions. Here is how Australia should line up:
- David Warner
- Shane Watson
- Aaron Finch
- David Hussey
- Cameron White (C)
- Steve Smith
- Tim Paine (WK)
- Mitchell Johnson
- Steve O’Keefe
- Brett Lee/James Pattinson
- Shaun Tait
England can do no wrong but Luke Wright is the only player who might consider himself to be under a little pressure. In fact after Shaun Tait trapped him lbw for zero in Adelaide, it took Wright’s Twenty20 duck tally to five – the equal highest number of ducks in T20 history. However it would be totally unnecessary to change such a successful formula right now and his spot in the side seems secure. Here is how England should line up:
- Ian Bell
- Steve Davies (WK)
- Kevin Pietersen
- Paul Collingwood (C)
- Eoin Morgan
- Luke Wright
- Tim Bresnan
- Michael Yardy
- Chris Woakes
- Graeme Swann
- Ajmal Shahzad
Whether you love them or hate them, credit must be given to the Poms. No matter what type of match it has been or what stipulation it has carried, England has continued to seize the moment right throughout its tour of Australia – with bat, ball and in the field.
Perhaps England’s biggest positive to come out of is one-wicket win in Adelaide was the performances by some of its non-Ashes players. Ajmal Shahzad and Michael Yardy were extremely proficient with the ball while Morgan proved to the world why he is such a dangerous batsman. It just shows how strong English cricket is at the moment and how much it has developed in the last six years.
Australia needs to pluck some confidence from somewhere. Whether it’s another outstanding all-round performance from Watson or an inspired home-ground effort from one of the Victorian players, someone from the Australian side needs to provide a spark in order for the entire team to lift.
The Australian pace attack holds the key to the team’s success. Tait, Lee, Pattinson and Mitchell Johnson must find the correct line and length in the first few overs and take early wickets to put the England top order under pressure. The conditions will certainly suit them, no matter what time of the night they bowl.
Both teams will take all the momentum they can conjure from this game into the seven-match ODI series and then the World Cup. If England had James Anderson and Chris Tremlett in their bowling attack tonight, there is little doubt it would win comfortably. But without those two the game is automatically back to a level playing field.
With possibly four Victorians set to play in front of their home crowd, the atmosphere should be very pro-Australian. And with very friendly pace-bowling conditions, surely Australia will finally break through for a Twenty20 victory.