The big one! Australia v England, Super Eights

Right then. Australia v England, 2007 World Cup. Actually Bangladesh kind of spoiled this by beating South Africa last night; had that gone to script, this would be a do-or-die dogfight for England. Now, England can still make the semi-finals even if they lose, as Andrew Miller pointed out. Still, Australia could take on England at Twister and there’d be an edge to the contest, and after losing the Commonwealth Bank finals, Australia’s quite keen to dish out some revenge to England. Revenge really motives Ricky Ponting.

The main question about the Australian team is if they will go with an extra batsman or an extra bowler to cover the injury to Shane Watson. Brad Hodge has a claim for scoring a century in his last innings, but I would prefer to see Australia go with an extra bowler.

Obviously an impartial writer would hope for a good close game, but I’m not impartial. I want England to be thrashed. I doubt it will happen mind you- England are getting to be good at derailing Australia’s best laid plans. In fact, I think England might just sneak a victory on this occasion. There’s been a few upsets about, and I think this might be another one.

Scorecard.

A grotesque mismatch masked as an ODI

Coming into Friday’s game between Australia and England, for what surely must be the final time this summer, the contrast between the two squads could hardly be greater.

The Australians are happy, confident, and feel that everything is on track going towards the winning of the series and into the World Cup. England look patently miserable, tired, out of ideas, and with no appetitite for the battle. The contrast between this side and the one that won the Ashes eighteen months ago is so stark it can barely be believed.

England fans have every right to be furious with their team and especially their administration for allowing such a state of affairs.

They go into Friday’s game against Australia without Michael Vaughan, and also without James Anderson, who is flying home after a back strain. All of England’s bowling hopes will therefore rest with Flintoff and the redoubtable Monty Panesar, who looks like he’s the only Englishman with both the ability and the desire to play at this level at this point in time.

Meanwhile, Australia are feeling confident enough to introduce Shaun Tait to their one-day side, who is replacing Brett Lee. It is very much a ‘like for like’ substitution. Tait is perhaps even faster then Lee these days, and similarly erratic in performance. England faced him in the last two Tests of 2005, and also in the first game of this tour where he played in the Prime Minister’s XI. He did so well in that game that there was speculation that he would be the third seamer in the Test lineup, but Stuart Clark got the nod, and did so well that Tait’s hopes subsided.

Ricky Ponting has a slight hip strain and is in some doubt, but if he fails a fitness test, he’ll be replaced by the in-form Brad Hodge, who scored 115 off 100 balls for Victoria against South Australa on Wednesday.

A quick check of the bookies has some amazing prices. Not many betting houses are offering better then 10 to 1 on for Australia, whereas you can get odds of 13/2 on England. Remarkable, in a two horse race.

Australia having a tough time

It was a very old fashioned day of hard, tough, Test cricket in Perth yesterday. South Africa bowled with superb discipline, good line and length, and had some misfortune with the umpiring. But Australia dug in, toughed it out, and thanks to the ‘brittle’ middle order of Hodge and Hussey, have the whip hand now.

And don’t feel too sorry for the South Africans. They have dropped five or six catches now for the Test and while their ground fielding has been very good, their catching is lamentable; a far cry from the atheletic teams coached by Bob Woolmer. So spare the sympathy for a team that can field.

Australia clean up

Australia made short work of the West Indies target, winning the Third Test with few alarms. Matt Hayden went on to 87 not out, narrowly falling short of getting five centuries in five Tests. Meanwhile Michael Hussey picked up 30 more runs, and he finishes his first Test series with a batting average of 120.

For all their troubles, the West Indies did look like they have made some improvement in their team on this tour, and they are less weak then they appear. Dwayne Bravo is the obvious ‘find’ of the tour, but the economy and line of Collymore is another positive.

From the Australian fan’s view point, it is good to see ‘normal service’ resume, but the real pleasing thing is the emergence of Hussey and Hodge in the middle order. We now have six Tests against South Africa to look forward to, and that is a good chance for the middle order to settle in, before the real challenge against England next summer.