Australia will have to lift their game significantly to prevent the hosts taking an unassailable lead in the five-m
It seems almost unlikely that Australia can win the series from here but we've seen in the past that one victory can do wonders to a team's confidence and fortune. It will take an inspired team effort or an extraordinary brilliance from a couple of key individuals, for Australia to outstrip this rampant England side.
Australia managed to take a few positives from defeat at Lord’s, but the sorry loss at The Oval has left the visitors looking decidedly ragged. Their batting was pedestrian and the bowling was highly inconsistent and wayward. Fifties to Shane Watson and George Bailey ultimately proved only of statistical value, and the worry is that Australia don’t have any reserve batsman in their 15-man squad to replace struggling players like David Hussey and Peter Forrest. Hussey is batting too far down the order and must be promoted, and Forrest lacks the spark needed from an ODI match-winner.
While Watson’s innings at The Oval was a welcome return to form, it included a dropped catch, a missed run-out opportunity and an lbw referral. That leaves David Warner and Michael Clarke as the two key batsmen for Australia and if both of them fail at Edgbaston, it will take some doing from the other batsmen to put up a decent show.
At The Oval, Australia's bowling was extremely substandard, to put it mildly. This attack is overly dependent on Brett Lee and when he has an off-day, the rest of their bowlers, apart from Clint McKay, tend to be shown up. Though McKay is not express pace he has a canny mind and mixes his deliveries well. Sufficed to say he has looked Australia’s best bowler on tour.
Mitchell Johnson played his first international match after an injury but looked out-of-sorts. He bowled three no-balls in his first two overs and Alastair Cook and Ian Bell took good advantage of free-hit deliveries. Australia must be toying with the idea of playing either Ben Hilfenhaus or James Pattinson in the next match.
England have looked a far superior side and all their players are in terrific form. They've won eight ODIs on the trot, their best run in 50-over cricket, and must be eying the whitewash which will make them the No. 1 team in all three formats. Cook and Bell are proving a reliable opening pair and together with Jonathan Trott, Ravi Bopara and Eoin Morgan – each Man-of-the-Match winners so far - have stamped their authority over Australia. Bopara's fine showing with the ball in the second ODI has also given England another bowling option, considering the injuries facing James Anderson and Jade Dernbach.
Two issues England must address, however, are fitness and catching; the latter was not as impressive at The Oval given the team’s high standards.
England and Australia have played eight matches at Edgbaston, out of which England have won four with one match being abandoned. Edgbaston is a batting paradise as far as ODIs go and the last four ODIs have seen the team batting first amassing monumental totals. In fact, the team who has batted first has won the last four ODIs played at this ground.
England: 1 Alastair Cook (capt), 2 Ian Bell, 3 Jonathan Trott, 4 Ravi Bopara, 5 Eoin Morgan, 6 Craig Kieswetter (wk), 7 Tim Bresnan, 8 Graeme Swann, 9 Stuart Broad, 10 Chris Woakes, 11 Steven Finn
Australia: 1 Shane Watson, 2 David Warner, 3 David Hussey, 4 George Bailey, 5 Michael Clarke (capt), 6 Peter Forrest, 7 Matthew Wade, 8 Brett Lee, 9 Clint McKay, 10 James Pattinson, 11 Xavier Doherty