Australia will return to the top of the World Cup standings and all but secure a passage into the semi-finals if they can deepen England’s misery when the sides meet at Lord’s.
The defending champions have won 13 of their last 14 one-day internationals and, ominously for Eoin Morgan’s side, seem to be peaking at the right time ahead of Tuesday’s clash.
Here, Press Association Sport runs the rule over Aaron Finch’s side.
Since resuming their partnership at the top of the order, Finch and David Warner have proven quite the double act, the pair contributing at least 50 for the opening wicket in five of their six tournament innings together. Warner has been uncharacteristically conservative in his approach early on, which has led some to conclude he is seeking to make amends for his role in last year’s ball-tampering scandal. There is no arguing with the results, though, with 447 runs at an average of 89.4. The more cavalier Finch has proven the ideal foil and his contribution of 396 runs at 66 with a strike rate approaching 110 is a highly encouraging return.
Keep an eye on the speed gun, which is likely to be working overtime, as Jofra Archer and Mark Wood go head-to-head against Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins. Anything England’s speedsters can do, Australia’s express pace pair are capable of replicating or even bettering. The duo have taken 26 wickets between them so far, with left-armer Starc proving his worth at the beginning and holding his nerve at the end, as he demonstrated in a stunning five for 46 against the West Indies at Trent Bridge. Cummins, the highest Australian in the ODI bowling rankings at sixth, has been in his team-mate’s shadow so far but could rise to the occasion at the Home of Cricket.
The reactions afforded to former Australia captain Steve Smith and his deputy Warner at a venue where respect and courtesy is of paramount importance will be interesting to note. The pair, who have returned to Australia’s line-up after serving 12-month bans for their parts in the notorious ball-tampering saga, have seemed impervious to the jeers, which are approaching pantomime status. However, Warner’s century against Bangladesh last Thursday was greeted with a muted reception while one of the loudest cheers of the day was when Smith was unsuccessful in overturning an lbw decision against him.
Australia mounting any sort of meaningful defence of their crown seemed fanciful when they left these shores 12 months ago, chastened by a 5-0 whitewash defeat. Matters did not improve as they lost home series to South Africa and India, only to then stun Virat Kohli’s side in the subcontinent. After overturning a 2-0 deficit to triumph 3-2, largely thanks to the runs of Usman Khawaja and the wickets of Cummins, they have not looked back, starting the World Cup with five wins out of six – their only blip coming against India at the Oval.
Warner’s recent displays and Finch’s record against England – he averages 50 against them in 25 ODIs, with six hundreds – mark them out as contenders but lurking in the shadows is Glenn Maxwell. If England fail to make early inroads and Maxwell comes out to bat with licence to swing from ball one then it could be decisive. The batsman with the second-highest ODI strike-rate in the history of the game has made telling cameos against Sri Lanka and Bangladesh without truly capturing the imagination, but that could all change on Tuesday.