Cricket fantasy world


Big picture

As the World Cup staggers into its closing 20 days, it can be possible to lose perspective on the past four years. England, thanks to their defeat by Sri Lanka and injury to Jason Roy - that almost certainly rules him out of the Australia clash -  - something, presumably, that will only happen when it matters most.
But away from the easy assumptions of the week is a bigger, more complicated story. England, having been more or less laughed out of the 2015 World Cup due to their retrograde approach and early elimination, retooled and rebranded with such success that they have been viewed as tournament favourites for at least the past two years. Australia, meanwhile, were the team in crisis for most of the past 12 months, due to the Newlands scandal and bans to Steven Smith and David Warner. Certainly Australia's coach Justin Langer had no reason to think his men might be in danger of getting complacent given their experiences leading into this competition.
Nevertheless, the major question is whether or not Australia now have a team that will match-up effectively against an England team who, for all their former success, need to keep it together in the here and now. A warm-up game in Southampton, won by Australia, provided some information of use. "We'll take a few match-ups [from the warm-up game]," Langer said. "The beauty of the World Cup is we get to watch every game and we've got lots of eyes on them, lots of cricket expertise and experience in our group. We get good ideas as they'll be doing against us, so yeah whether it's in the practice games or the games we've been watching or the last four years' footage and data we've got on England, it all adds up."
A notable strength of Australia under Langer has been their ability to play a brand of cricket suited to most opponents, with adjustments made for each. This all comes back to Langer's very pugilistic understanding of cricket "combat". At Lord's, both England and Australia will get a strong indicator of how well their fighting feet are moving around the ring with the world title bout entering its final, definitive rounds. "This tournament is going to be about who can hold their nerve in the big moments," Langer said . "We have got to concentrate on how we hold our nerve in the big moments. There are going to be plenty of them in the next three games and hopefully the semi-final. I have said for 6-8 months, when it comes to a World Cup there is a lot of talk about statistics, but it comes down to match play and we have to play England on Tuesday better than they play us."


Ashes can wait as England, Australia gear up for mega World Cup clash

Jofra Archer sent back Dimuth Karunaratne early Getty Images

Big picture

As the World Cup staggers into its closing 20 days, it can be possible to lose perspective on the past four years. England, thanks to their defeat by Sri Lanka and injury to Jason Roy - that almost certainly rules him out of the Australia clash - are in crisis, lambasted by the press and now weighed down by the expectation that come global tournaments, they invariably stuff it up. That's the conventional view of this week, anyway. At the same time, Australia are growing in strength, getting the wins they need without quite looking like they have put it all together - something, presumably, that will only happen when it matters most.
But away from the easy assumptions of the week is a bigger, more complicated story. England, having been more or less laughed out of the 2015 World Cup due to their retrograde approach and early elimination, retooled and rebranded with such success that they have been viewed as tournament favourites for at least the past two years. Australia, meanwhile, were the team in crisis for most of the past 12 months, due to the Newlands scandal and bans to Steven Smith and David Warner. Certainly Australia's coach Justin Langer had no reason to think his men might be in danger of getting complacent given their experiences leading into this competition.
Nevertheless, the major question is whether or not Australia now have a team that will match-up effectively against an England team who, for all their former success, need to keep it together in the here and now. A warm-up game in Southampton, won by Australia, provided some information of use. "We'll take a few match-ups [from the warm-up game]," Langer said. "The beauty of the World Cup is we get to watch every game and we've got lots of eyes on them, lots of cricket expertise and experience in our group. We get good ideas as they'll be doing against us, so yeah whether it's in the practice games or the games we've been watching or the last four years' footage and data we've got on England, it all adds up."
A notable strength of Australia under Langer has been their ability to play a brand of cricket suited to most opponents, with adjustments made for each. This all comes back to Langer's very pugilistic understanding of cricket "combat". At Lord's, both England and Australia will get a strong indicator of how well their fighting feet are moving around the ring with the world title bout entering its final, definitive rounds. "This tournament is going to be about who can hold their nerve in the big moments," Langer said . "We have got to concentrate on how we hold our nerve in the big moments. There are going to be plenty of them in the next three games and hopefully the semi-final. I have said for 6-8 months, when it comes to a World Cup there is a lot of talk about statistics, but it comes down to match play and we have to play England on Tuesday better than they play us."


Form guide

England: LWWWL (Last five completed matches, most recent first)
Australia: WWWLW

in the spotlight

No opposition country got a better look at Jofra Archer prior to his international debut than Australia. It was via the Big Bash League and a wildly successful run for Hobart Hurricanes that Archer made himself a high-profile likelihood for England in the first place. As coach of the Perth Scorchers, Justin Langer has already had to plan for Archer, and his Hurricanes twice confounded the Scorchers on a run to the BBL final in 2017-18. "Great athlete isn't he?" Langer said. "We've seen him a lot in the Big Bash, Adam Griffith was his coach at the Hurricanes, so we know a fair bit about Jofra, he's a brilliant athlete, he bowls fast, moves well, so we'll be on our toes for him as well. It's nice to know the opposition and study them well, but at the start we've just got to be really clear what we want to do."
In an Australian side not always the most balanced, Marcus Stoinis is a key link man. As a batsman his top order tendencies can at times obscure his powerful hitting, with early strike rotation key to allowing him and his partners to score effectively at the back end of an innings. But it is with the ball that Stoinis has arguably become most important, using seam up and a combination of many slower ball variations to prove harder to hit out of the attack than it would always appear. Against Bangladesh it was Stoinis, not Starc or Cummins, who took the key wicket of Shakib Al Hasan, miscuing one of those very change-ups.

Team news

Jason Roy's record against Australia is formidable - 759 runs at 47.43 and a strike rate of 114.30, including a memorable 180 at the MCG in January 2018 - but he is almost certain to sit this one out. The good news is a second scan, carried out on Monday morning, showed improvement in the injury, raising hopes he will be fit to play in the match against India on June 30. For now, Vince has the talent to be an effective opener against Australia, but he is yet to face them in an ODI, and flattered to deceive in the 2017-18 Ashes. Among the quicks, Liam Plunkett and Mark Wood continue to duel for the last pace bowling berth.
England (possible) 1 Jonny Bairstow, 2 James Vince/Jason Roy, 3 Joe Root, 4 Eoin Morgan (capt), 5 Ben Stokes, 6 Jos Buttler (wk), 7 Moeen Ali, 8 Chris Woakes, 9 Adil Rashid, 10 Jofra Archer, 11 Liam Plunkett/Mark Wood
Based on the way they performed against England in the warm-up fixture at Southampton, both Nathan Lyon and Jason Berendorff can expect to be strongly considered in place of Adam Zampa and Nathan Coulter-Nile.
Australia (possible) 1 Aaron Finch (capt), 2 David Warner, 3 Usman Khawaja, 4 Steven Smith, 5 Glenn Maxwell, 6 Marcus Stoinis, 7 Alex Carey (wk), 8 Nathan Coulter-Nile/Jason Behrendorff, 9 Pat Cummins, 10 Mitchell Starc, 11 Adam Zampa/Nathan Lyon

Pitch and conditions

Lord's entered World Cup equations for the first time this week with Pakistan's victory over South Africa on a surface that, as is typical, offered a little bit of something for all - plus the vagaries of the Lord's slope. The pitch for Tuesday's contest has a distinctly green tinge at this late stage of its preparation, and while it may be dry underneath, it does also need to hold together for Saturday's clash between Australia and New Zealand, which may influence the amount of grass that gets left on it. London's forecast is for warm temperatures and scattered showers across the day. It looks like a bowl-first situation.

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