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Australia vs England: World Cup preparations intensify in three-match T20 series
England meet Australia in the latest chapter in a historic sporting rivalry before the World Cup, with all the action exclusively live on BT Sport.
England are on the cusp of another T20 World Cup campaign, less than a year after the last one ended in agony in Abu Dhabi.
New Zealand vanquished England’s death bowling to edge a spellbinding semi-final last November but were unable to stop Australia racing to their first title.
Little time has elapsed, but so much has changed. Inspirational captain Eoin Morgan has retired, Matthew Mott is the new coach and Ben Stokes is back.
With weeks to go until a renewed England begin their T20 World Cup campaign, they take on Australia in three crucial matches, with all the action exclusively live on BT Sport.
The series will provide invaluable final preparation as both sides look to fine-tune their selections ahead of a wide-open tournament, which begins on Sunday 16 October.
England arrived in Australia after a morale-boosting 4-3 series victory in Pakistan, sealed by a convincing win in the decider in Lahore, but there are still some issues to be resolved.
Alex Hales was reintegrated in Pakistan after a three-year exile following a second failed recreational drugs test in 2019. Repentant and ready to right his wrongs, he opened the batting in six of the seven matches but only returned one half-century and 130 runs.
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He was marginally outperformed by fellow opener Phil Salt who scored more runs (167) at a higher strike rate (157) and caught the eye with a blistering match-winning innings in Lahore.
Salt also offers a compelling wicket-keeping alternative to Jos Buttler who juggles captaincy, keeping wicket and opening the batting. The captain also needs to manage his return after a calf injury which ruled him out in Pakistan.
Hales is expected to open alongside the returning Buttler given his success in the Big Bash, but Salt could tip the scales in his favour if he continues to apply pressure in the Australia series.
Test captain Stokes will also return to international T20 cricket for the first time since March 2021 after being rested for the Pakistan tour and missing out last year to focus on his mental wellbeing.
The talismanic all-rounder has never truly shone in the format, averaging a touch over 20 with the bat for England, but Mott has all but confirmed he will come in at number four.
“Jos in particular is clear that he’s a top-four player,” he said. “Those conditions in Australia will suit the way he plays. You always have a bit of flexibility with the batting, but he will be expected to be higher in the innings.”
Harry Brook is a certain starter in the World Cup team after a breakthrough series in Pakistan where he scored 238 runs at an average of 79.33 from seven innings batting at five.
Moeen Ali and Liam Livingstone, who is expected to recover from an ankle injury in time for the start of the World Cup, are set to complete a deep batting line-up.
England possess a varied bowling unit with several points of difference. Mark Wood bowled at 97mph in Karachi and will be a weapon on bouncy Australian pitches.
There is understandable caution about his fitness in an intense schedule, but he is likely to play alongside left-armer Reece Topley and wrist-spinner Adil Rashid in an ideal scenario.
Chris Jordan, Chris Woakes and Sam Curran are all also in the frame to play, with the Australia series likely to decide who gets the nod for the World Cup opener against Afghanistan.
England’s death bowling has been horribly exposed at the last two T20 World Cups and it is imperative they find a solution before the tournament with time running out.
We have a World Cup to win and that is what we have got to peak for
- Pat Cummins
Hosts Australia incredibly lost five T20 series in a row before clinching the trophy last November, and they look in better shape as they prepare to defend their title at home.
They have won five of their last six series this time around and wrapped up a comprehensive victory over the West Indies on Friday.
They have retained the core of the squad that powered them to glory in Dubai, including openers David Warner and Aaron Finch as well frontline bowlers Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood, and will hope the inclusion of destructive middle-order batsman and franchise league superstar Tim David can sprinkle some stardust.
Singapore-born David has largely made his name outside of the Australian system in various T20 leagues and he is becoming impossible to overlook after blasting a 50 against India in Hyderabad last month and making a quickfire 42 against the West Indies this week.
The hosts have decided to rest bowlers Starc, Hazlewood, Cummins and Adam Zampa, along with Glenn Maxwell, for the opening match in Perth. They will all remain in eastern Australia and will be available for the Canberra matches.
Mitchell Swepson and Nathan Ellis have been added to the squad for the first game, while Marcus Stoinis, Kane Richardson and Ashton Agar are all back from injury.
Cameron Green, who has not been named in the World Cup squad, has also been retained after impressing against India.
“We have a World Cup to win and that is what we have got to peak for,” said Cummins.
“You might see some people having a rest and in some different roles to make sure we give ourselves the best chance not only for the start of the tournament but the back end if we are there.”
Captain Finch, who curiously dropped himself down the batting order in the first match against the West Indies, added: “We’re going to keep tinkering with things just to try and make sure that we've got all bases covered.”
It’s always a compelling sporting spectacle when England face Australia, and with so much at stake as both sides look to finalise their plans ahead of the World Cup, the pivotal three-match series will be a useful indicator of how two of the favourites are shaping up.
Watch the first T20 between Australia and England from 8.30am on Sunday on BT Sport 1.