CARDIFF - This series has been reduced to a three-match contest following the abandonment at Edgbaston, so England now face, in Eoin Morgan’s words, a “semi-final and a final” in the remaining two matches if they are to win this series.
Winning is the stated aim for England despite their experimental squad and, given the shortened nature of the series, winning is perhaps all they can expect to take from it because there is now little opportunity to have a look at the players they called up. Michael Carberry won’t want to be judged on just three innings and Morgan said he will retain his place as opener for the rest of this series. Likewise, England would like Steven Finn to get some more game time to gauge where his bowling is ahead of the winter Ashes tour; Finn perhaps feels that he needs a solid performance to nail down a place as backup bowler in the Test squad.
Jamie Overton and Chris Jordan will now probably get one chance at best to announce their arrival in international cricket and none of the batsmen now need a rest so the opportunity for Luke Wright to return is slim.
What cricket there has been in this series, Australia have played by far the best of it and they will be eager to get back on the park again and continue their progress. They have been motivated, sharp in all departments and desperately keen to take something away from what has been a tough tour. The form of George Bailey at Old Trafford suggested Michael Clarke might find some support and Mitchell Johnson has been back to his terrifying best, suggesting he could become a fine bowler in all forms of the game again.
Steven Finn can’t make up his mind whether he’s a high class international bowler or not. He has all the attributes to do so but there has been a sense of him being dragged from pillar to post by England and Middlesex. A change of run up and back again; in and out of the Test side; none of it can have helped Finn’s confidence but if he can rediscover the form that tore through New Zealand in the ODI series back in February, we could be talking about Finn as England’s next superstar again.
Aaron Finch showed what a blistering player he can be in the Twenty20 at the Ageas Bowl. He followed that up with a battering of Scotland and is primed to show he can produce regularly in ODIs. He endured a lean series against West Indies in February but is now clearly striking the ball at his best.
Meanwhile, Australia pace bowler Mitchell Johnson has warned England to expect another ferocious assault in Saturday’s fourth one-day international in Cardiff. Johnson was not selected for the recent Ashes series which England won 3-0, but he has returned for the five limited overs matches and has already made quite an impact. The 31-year-old left-armer has a point to prove as he looks to secure a spot in Australia’s squad for the Ashes rematch on home soil later this year and he showed his pace and aggression can still cause problems when he bounced out Jonathan Trott at Old Trafford and then dismissed Kevin Pietersen the same way at Edgbaston. “I have that confidence and belief in my bowling,” Johnson said on Friday.
ENGLAND: Michael Carberry, Kevin Pietersen, Jonathan Trott, Eoin Morgan (capt), Joe Root, Ravi Bopara, Jos Buttler (wk), Ben Stokes, James Tredwell, Boyd Rankin, Steven Finn
AUSTRALIA: Aaron Finch, Shaun Marsh, Shane Watson, Michael Clarke (capt), George Bailey, Adam Voges, Matthew Wade (wk), James Faulkner, Mitchell Johnson, Clint McKay, Fawad Ahmed.