You wanted a new team director. You’ve got it. Well, for a few weeks anyway. After the shambles that was the Ashes, it’s time for Ashley Giles and our ODI team to strut its stuff. Or should that be limp like a lame badger?
Although it’s easy to be pessimistic about our chances – most bookies make Australia big favourites at 1-2, while England are 13-8 – there’s actually cause for optimism: the team that wins the Ashes rarely wins the ODIs.
The last time we got hammered 5-0 in the test series, we somehow managed to win the ensuing one-day competition – thanks mostly to Paul Collingwood, who hardly got a run in the five day matches. We should also remind ourselves that the Aussies won the ODIs at the end of the English summer.
The Ashes victors usually turn up at these matches nursing huge hangovers. They make all the right noises before, during and after the matches, but deep down they don’t care too much about the outcome. The main trophy has already been won. They’re on cruise control; playing cricket with a metaphorical pina colada in one hand and a fat Cuban cigar in the other.
The Ashes losers, on the other hand, often see these matches as a fresh start: a chance to salvage lost pride and get something tangible out of a long tour. They’re also galvanised by a few new faces: in England’s case Chris Woakes, Chris Jordan, Jos Buttler and Ravi Bopara.
However, it’s hard to predict exactly what’s going to happen this time because the context of the series is different. The World Cup is taking place in Australia next year. Both teams will see this as a dress rehearsal of sorts.
What’s more, with Paul Downton yet to decide whether to give Kevin Pietersen or Andy Flower the boot, Ashley Giles will be determined to show that he’s the man to take over the test team (God help us all).
Gilo’s record thus far is pretty poor: after inheriting a team recently ranked number one in the world, he’s won and lost exactly the same number of matches. The majority of these have been at home too.
Our journey to the Champions Trophy final papered over a lot of these cracks. We played a brand of cricket that was trapped in some kind of time warp: building innings slowly and relying on late order pyrotechnics to claw our way up to 270. The best teams, like India and Sri Lanka, started innings aggressively in pursuit of 300+.
I also find this ODI series intriguing because I have no idea who England will pick. There are questions marks all over the team.
Who will open the batting? One suspects it will be Cook and Bell. But with Jonathan Trott missing in action, maybe Bell will drop to three and Carberry will open. If not, then Joe Root will probably bat three. However, Root’s best performances in ODIs have come in the middle-order.
Furthermore, one suspects the selectors are desperate to have a look at Gary Balance. But if that’s the case, where will Bopara slot into the team, given that Ben Stokes is likely to move up the order too?
It could be a case of Bopara or Ballance, unless Giles packs the side with batsmen again and relies on Ravi to be the fifth bowler. However, after this backfired so spectacularly in September, Ashley has probably learned his lesson.
The composition of the bowling attack is also up in the air. Only Broad, and probably Stokes, are guaranteed places. I expect Giles to keep faith with Tredwell – although the Aussies chewed him up and spat him out like a piece of Tubby Taylor chewing gum back home – but how do you choose between Finn, Jordon, Rankin and Woakes? If it was up to me, I’d gamble on the former two players, but it’s close.
And talking of gambling, if you fancy a punt on who will be the leading run scorer, you can get 3-1 on David Warner, and 100-30 on Alastair Cook. This looks decent value to me, although if you want to wait a while, online pokies or a cricket based casino game might suit you. Amusingly, there’s a casino game called Umpire Strikes Back, which has a Star Wars theme. Joe Root as Luke Skywalker anyone?
Possible England team: Cook, Bell, Root, Morgan, Bopara, Stokes, Buttler, Broad, Jordon, Tredwell, Finn.