England eye series win but concerns remain: Talking points
England have a chance to wrap up series victory over Australia at Trent Bridge
England are hoping to wrap up one-day international series victory early by opening up an unassailable 3-0 lead over Australia at Trent Bridge.
Here, Press Association Sport assesses the current state of play:
England are bidding for an eighth victory in their last nine attempts over five-time World Cup winners – and current holders – Australia. The heady sequence dates back to last summer’s Champions Trophy, and takes in the 4-1 series win down under which followed England’s Ashes humbling. Another success in Nottingham would inevitably turn attention to a possible 5-0 whitewash – something England have never previously achieved against Australia.
England still vulnerable
There were warning signs for home supporters nonetheless, only two days ago in Cardiff, that their bowling attack is far from impervious. England’s strength is in its batting, of course – but especially in the ongoing injury absences of Chris Woakes and Ben Stokes, they need those big totals. At Sophia Gardens, they had 38 runs to spare in the end. When Shaun Marsh was in full flow as Australia’s chase recovered from a sticky start, however, there were more than a few nervous glances as 342 for eight began to look a little shaky.
Hales and hearty?
The well-worn phrase may trip off the tongue, but in Alex Hales’ case it is perhaps not necessarily an apt one at present. Through a series of vexed and varied circumstances over the past nine months, he has lost his opener’s slot to Jason Roy. It is less than two years ago that Hales was hitting England’s then all-time record ODI individual score of 171 on his home ground. He could do with something approaching a reprise to keep his hold on the number three position.
Captains on the mend
Both Eoin Morgan and Tim Paine are due to take charge in Nottingham, after recovering from their respective Cardiff ailments. Morgan had to sit out the second ODI when he suffered a last-minute back spasm, and England could be heartened by Jos Buttler’s response as his able deputy. Paine’s misfortune was more dramatic – he was hit in the face by a ball which bounced up awkwardly above his wicketkeeper’s gloves into his face. Reports that he lost teeth in the incident were apparently wide of the mark. Paine did need stitches around his upper lip, but never left his post and was able to bat too.
World Cup pointers
England are top of the International Cricket Council ODI rankings while after defeat in Cardiff, Australia have slipped to sixth and therefore officially their lowest ebb in this format since 1984. It is a very ‘English’ suggestion perhaps to query whether Morgan’s team is ‘peaking too soon’. For what it is worth, Australia batsman Aaron Finch did not think so at his pre-match press conference. He also appears confident the tourists can soon prove much more competitive than they have of late.