Wright struggles to explain England woes
Four years ago the Rose Bowl was the place where it all began for England. Their stunning defeat of Australia in the world's second Twenty20 international set the tone for a whole summer which was to culminate in the recapture of the Ashes.
Although the greatest prize, of course, has already been regained this time it can only be hoped for the sake of the home side's involvement in the NatWest Series that the country's newest ground has a similar effect this evening. If not, Australia will go ahead 3-0 and the seven-match series may all be over before it has got into it stride.
As Luke Wright, one of England's all-rounders said yesterday: "It's a matter of taking responsibility. Everyone seems to be getting starts and we just haven't had that hundred or match-winning innings yet. It's hard to put a finger on why that hasn't happened but we are getting in positions where we can win."
England have patently failed to take responsibility so far. They may be suffering from post-Ashes dullness, they may still be trying to work out (yet again) new one-day strategies, but so far only one of their batsmen has reached a half-century.
They have also run into a rejuvenated Brett Lee, who showed signs on Sunday at Lord's that he has not only returned to full fitness but has plenty of venom in reserve, having missed the Ashes. Lee, one of the most watchable bowlers in the world, was injured on the eve of the series and then failed to persuade Australia's selectors of his fitness, but is back and breathing fire.
At the age of 32 and still regularly hitting 90mph as well as bowling brutal reverse swinging yorkers he has lost none of his hunger. "I'm starving," he said. "Hungrier than before."
Lee has been tormenting England in one-day cricket throughout this decade and has taken 42 wickets in 23 one-day matches against them. On Sunday at Lord's he was at his cleverest and most hostile, virtually pawing the ground at the top of his run and playing with enormous joie de vivre.
"I've hopefully got a lot more to offer," he said. "I'm still enjoying my cricket, still loving being part of the Australian team. You saw when I took a couple of wickets the other day that I've still got that buzz."
England will rest Stuart Broad, although he has recovered from a neck strain and Joe Denly is still unavailable. If this restricts their options, they must seriously consider recalling Adil Rashid, who was dropped on defective grounds last Sunday.
While this would, on paper, weaken their batting because it would probably mean the omission of Eoin Morgan, his form has been such that Rashid may in any case be safer option.
The batting order still looks decidedly brittle, with Owais Shah struggling and Matt Prior perhaps slightly high at No 3. But then Australia's top three is Shane Watson, Tim Paine and Cameron White – replacing, let it not be forgotten, the trio of Matthew Hayden, Adam Gilchrist and Ricky Ponting – and they seem to be coping.
The last time England played a home one-day international against Australia on the same day as the England football team played at Wembley was in 1997. Both Englands won, one by six wickets at The Oval when Mike Atherton scored his second and last ODI hundred, and the other 2-1 against South Africa at Wembley. All potential portents are necessary now.
England: A J Strauss, R S Bopara, M J Prior, O A Shah, P D Collingwood, L J Wright, A U Rashid, G P Swann, T T Bresnan, J M Anderson, R J Sidebottom.
Australia: S R Watson, T D Paine (wk), C L White, M J Clarke (capt), C J Ferguson, M E K Hussey, J R Hopes, M G Johnson, N M Hauritz, B Lee, N W Bracken.
* Andrew Flintoff will spend the next two months in Dubai as part of his rehabilitation following knee surgery. Flintoff feels his recovery will be eased in a warmer climate.
* Paul Collingwood has made himself available for his IPL side, the Delhi Daredevils, in the Champions League. Collingwood made no appearances for Delhi in the IPL earlier this year.
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