Title favourites England are expected to be tested for the first time in the ongoing T20 World Cup when they face arch-rivals Australia in a battle for supremacy in the Super 12 Group 1 in Dubai on Saturday.
Both teams go into the high pressure game unbeaten. While England started their campaign as favourites for the trophy, Australia have emerged as a strong contender with their performance in the first two games.
Australia’s batting was not very convincing in the low-scoring match against South Africa but they were clinical in the chase against Sri Lanka Thursday night.
Warner, Finch back among the runs
The biggest positive out of the Sri Lanka game was captain Aaron Finch and David Warner getting back amongst the runs at the top of the order.
Warner especially was criticised for his form since being sidelined by Sunrisers Hyderabad in the IPL and he answered all his doubters with a belligerent half-century.
The southpaw is expecting the game against England to be a tough one.
“They’ve obviously got a good all-around side. They bat deep, and they’ve got a lot of options with the ball. They are high confidence, as well. We know with their batting they’re going to come hard, and in the bowling you pretty much know what you’re going to get, so as I said, it’s applying pressure,” said Warner.
“If you can apply pressure in the first six, minimize damage, it sort of changes the mindset of what they have to do,” he said.
Australia bowlers, be it the pace trio of Josh Hazlewood, Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins, have lived up to the expectations while leggie Adam Zampa showed the value he brings to the table against Sri Lanka.
The Lankans made a flying start but Zampa completely changed the momentum of the game with his double strike in the middle overs.
Australia’s fifth bowler problem?
The only cause of concern would be the bowling performance of Glenn Maxwell and Marcus Stoinis who leaked 51 runs in four overs on Thursday.
“We’re covering a lot of areas with that fifth bowler, we’ve got Maxwell, Stoinis, Marsh, all who can contribute those four overs,” Cummins said.
“It might change, but at the moment I feel like whichever way we go, we’ve got plenty of options.
“I think another great thing about those first two games is it feels like everyone in the 11 has played a huge role.
“Just about everyone has fired and is riding high on confidence, it feels like it’s all coming together,” he added.
England, on other hand, are coming into the game with big wins over West Indies and Bangladesh. They hardly broke a sweat in those games but Australia are likely to pose a much tougher challenge.
Off-spinner Moeen Ali, who opened the bowling in both the games, has been impressive and already has four wickets to his name. In the pace department, Tymal Mills has been the standout bowler and has been brilliant in the death overs.
Leggie Adil Rashid did not have the best of nights against Bangladesh but expect him to trouble the Australians on Saturday.
For England captain Eoin Morgan, having had two comfortable victories, he believes Australia will present a real challenge for the 2016 finalists.
“I think it’s probably going to be one of our most difficult games in this group stage, Australia are a very strong side, they’ve gone two for two, very much like us, and they’ve started the tournament well,” Morgan said.
“Australia are a very strong side. Obviously coming into the tournament, they probably would be considered joint second favourites, along with us.
“They’re a side that we know pretty well, we have played against them a lot over two or three years, so we’re looking forward to a really good game.”
England have started strongly in the tournament and have been buoyed by positive performances from both their opening batters – Jason Roy and Jos Buttler - but Morgan believes his side can still thrive even if that duo don’t fire.
He added: “I think early momentum in any game can go a long way to winning a game, but like we witnessed over the last couple of years, if we don’t manage to gain that momentum, I think we have guys that can either wrestle it back or counterpunch.
“I think that’s probably what makes us a difficult side to play against, we always have a hand or a trick to play regardless of the situation that we’re in.”
And with their historic rivalry and the Ashes coming up later this year, Pat Cummins is seeing it as a chance for Australia to get an early advantage.
The fast bowler said: “Most of the team is quite different to the Test side for England, but it’s always huge. We play England a lot. I think the style of play is quite similar, we like to take the game on.
“They’ve been probably just about the form team the last few years in white-ball cricket.
“We know these guys really well. We know it’s such a big game in the context of making the semi-finals, and always enjoy coming up against England.
“There are a few players that will be coming out this summer from this side, so it would be great to get one on the board against them early.”
England: Eoin Morgan (c), Moeen Ali, Jonathan Bairstow, Sam Billings, Jos Buttler, Tom Curran, Chris Jordan, Liam Livingstone, Dawid Malan, Tymal Mills, Adil Rashid, Jason Roy, David Willey, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood.
Australia: Aaron Finch (c), Ashton Agar, Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, Josh Inglis, Mitchell Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Kane Richardson, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Marcus Stoinis, Mitchell Swepson, Matthew Wade, David Warner, Adam Zampa.
The match starts at 7.30pm IST and will be shown Live on the Star Sports Network.
(With inputs from PTI and ICC Media Release)
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