Somehow there is a decider to this series. That looked a very small chance when Australia needed 88 to win with eight wickets and 19 overs in hand two days ago. But as well as the middle order staged a recovery in the opening match there remains a vulnerability and England were able to seize on it, albeit on a tricky pitch that made their total of 231 more demanding that it may have appeared.
A key factor for this final game – the last of an extraordinary men’s international season that will be completed amid the Covid-19 pandemic – is that it will be played on a fresh pitch, although it’s worth saying how superbly the two groundsmen at Old Trafford and the Ageas Bowl have done to sustain the quality of surfaces over such a high turnover of matches.
Who holds the advantage heading into this one? You would have to say England given the confidence boost of coming back from the brink on Sunday and an unbeaten home record that dates back to 2015 (when Australia were the last side to win a bilateral series in the country). However, perhaps due to the stop-start nature of the format since the World Cup, England have not quite hit their straps consistently in ODIs since then. For now, the top order has lost just a little of its aura – not that it would take much for it to return, and winning in different ways is certainly a good thing.
Australia came into the tour having not played cricket for six months and perhaps a little lack of match hardness is partly to blame for their two defeats-from-the-jaws-of-victory performances in the first T20I and then the second ODI. However, particularly the way the collapse unfolded at breakneck speed two days ago will have been of concern.
What they do have, though, is a very impressive pace attack with Josh Hazlewood outstanding in the two ODIs – conceded just 26 and 27 in 10 overs – while Adam Zampa is picking up wickets for fun. Bowling has never really been a massive concern for Australia; it’s the batting that continues to hold unanswered questions. Still, as shown in the opening match of the series, they are good enough to beat the world champions. England will need to be at their best to end this summer-like-no-other with a trophy.
(last five completed matches)
In the spotlight
Jos Buttler was outstanding in the two T20Is he played, taking the Man of the Series award despite being allowed to step away for the final match, but he has not been able to rekindle that feeling in the first two ODs with scores of 1 and 3 as Australia have made inroads into England’s middle order. He has had a magnificent season, all amid the challenges of being in the bubble almost from start to finish, so if his powers are waning a touch towards the end (his keeping is still good) then that would be understandable. However, the prospect of a series to win could just be the moment to bring a final flourish.
With one innings to go, it has been another low-scoring tour of England for David Warner. After a half-century in the first T20I he has made three single-figure scores and been dismissed by his newest nemesis, Jofra Archer, in all four innings. As in the Ashes when he became a walking wicket for Stuart Broad he has received some superb deliveries from Archer, notably the two in the one-day series, but he will be keen not to finish another trip to these shores with the memory of him falling regularly to the same England pace bowler.
The Curran brothers had a big impact after replacing Moeen Ali and Mark Wood in the XI. It would be tough on either of them to miss out for the decider. It might hinge on whether Wood’s ankle niggle was anything more than needing a match off to rest amid a tight turnaround. If Moeen didn’t play on the previous pitch, it’s unlikely he’ll be recalled on a new one.
England (probable) 1 Jason Roy, 2 Jonny Bairstow, 3 Joe Root, 4 Eoin Morgan, 5 Sam Billings, 6 Jos Buttler (wk), 7 Chris Woakes, Sam Curran, 9 Tom Curran, 10 Adil Rashid, 11 Jofra Archer
The key decision will be again around whether Steven Smith is able to return after the blow on the head before the opening game. He has passed all his concussion tests but a cautious approach has been taken so far, and Justin Langer says a late decision will be made. Despite the middle-order collapse it’s unlikely the selectors will be drawn into any knee-jerk decisions.
Australia (probable) 1 David Warner, 2 Aaron Finch (capt), 3 Marcus Stoinis/Steven Smith, 4 Marnus Labuschagne, 5 Mitchell Marsh, 6 Alex Carey (wk), 7 Glenn Maxwell, 8 Pat Cummins, 9 Mitchell Starc, 10 Adam Zampa, 11 Josh Hazlewood
Pitch and conditions
A new pitch offers the prospect of something more in favour of the batsmen, although Old Trafford is usually a good battle between bat and ball on any surface. The forecast is for another dry and bright autumn day, although there have been a few signs of dew being a factor at the very end of the game.
Stats and Trivia
“Jofra Archer’s an incredibly talented bowler. Equally, David Warner – what a player. I was looking over numbers last night and Davey’s record over the last little bit, I know when he gets in, he scores hundreds in one-day cricket. It’s been a great contest, some of these one-on-one match-ups, and often the fast bowler against the opening batter, that’s why we get up to watch the game. I’m sure Davey, he’s a superstar, he’s working overtime to be up for tomorrow night’s game.”
Justin Langer on the contest between David Warner and Jofra Archer
“I think we’ve earned that respect over a four- or five-year period. Teams do realise that we can potentially win from any position and the game is not done until they get over the line. We’ve got that character and belief that we can win from any position.”
Chris Woakes reflects on England’s ability to overturn the odds as a 50-over team.