ODI stars help England emerge from gloom
Alex Hales and Mark Wood can energise tourists in Brisbane
BT Sport 1, 3.20am Friday
England's Test team were humbled 4-0 by Australia in the Ashes but the one-day series between the teams looks an entirely different ball game.
In the Tests, England’s batsmen were bereft of confidence and their bowling attack lacked bite; in the first ODI in Melbourne, Jason Roy smashed 180 off 151 balls – a national record – after Mark Wood’s pace had upset the Aussie batsmen.
Roy’s brilliant innings led England to a five-wicket victory and a record run-chase at the MCG and they are 3-4 to go on and win the five-match series.
Australia’s rotation policy continues at the Gabba, where paceman Pat Cummins will sit out the second ODI, and England’s batting strength makes them a tempting bet.
They romped home in Melbourne despite failures for Jonny Bairstow (14), Alex Hales (four), Eoin Morgan (one) and Jos Buttler (four).
With Moeen Ali at seven followed by Chris Woakes, Adil Rashid, Liam Plunkett and Wood, England have a superb lower-order and spinner Moeen looks more confident with the white ball, taking 2-28 in the warm-up game and 1-39 in the first ODI.
Australia will be determined to hit back in Brisbane but the core of their one-day team is made up of players such as Steve Smith, David Warner, Mitchell Starc, Mitchell Marsh and Cummins, who starred in the Test series.
England, in contrast, look energised by the arrival of their limited-overs specialists while batsman Joe Root, relieved of the pressures of captaincy in 50-over cricket, scored a superb unbeaten 91 in support of Roy.
Some of the fog surrounding the Ben Stokes affair has cleared this week – the all-rounder has been charged with affray after his arrest on a night out in Bristol last autumn but will be available for the tour of New Zealand in February and March.
Even without Stokes, England’s 11 is beautifully balanced and price about Hales top-scoring from number three looks too big given his ODI pedigree.
He has been short of top-class cricket since being suspended for his part in the Bristol incident but he blasted 52 off 35 balls in the warm-up win over a Cricket Australia 11 before the first ODI.
The Nottinghamshire man scored a sublime 187 not out against Surrey in the One-Day Cup final last summer and has had plenty of success on Australian pitches in the Big Bash.
Hales has become far more consistent since his breakthrough ODI century against Pakistan in Abu Dhabi in November 2015 and since the start of 2016 he has scored four centuries and eight fifties in 29 one-day innings.
Those centuries include a 171 against Pakistan at Trent Bridge in August 2016 – the mark that Roy surpassed in Melbourne – and Hales doesn’t often go off at such generous odds to top-score.
Smith, Warner and opener Aaron Finch, whose 107 from 119 balls was made to look pedestrian by Roy’s subsequent innings, dominate the top Australia runscorer market.
Starc is favourite to be the home side’s leading wicket-taker, with Josh Hazlewood likely to return in place of Cummins.
Wood is worth a small bet to be England’s most successful bowler. He hit 90mph at the MCG, bounced out Warner in his first over and was unfortunate to end up with only one wicket from ten threatening overs.
The Durham man should come on for the run and he took 4-33 in his previous outing against Australia at last summer’s Champions Trophy.
England 2pts 11-8 Betway
A Hales top England runscorer
1pt 5-1 Betfair
M Wood top England wicket-taker
1pt 7-2 general
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