Mitchell Starc will once again be key against a strong English batting line-up. © Getty Images

Mitchell Starc will once again be key against a strong English batting line-up. © Getty Images

Group A: England v Australia

Date: Saturday, June 10 2017

Venue: Edgbaston, Birmingham

HEAD-TO-HEAD

136 Matches; Australia 80; England 51; Tie 2; No Result 3

THE FORM

The oldest rivalry in cricket is set to resume in a game of contrasting importance to the sides involved.

Nothing less than a win will do for Australia, for they have been pushed to a corner by the weather gods in England. Both their games were spoiled by rain, leaving Australia with just two points. They were particularly unlucky in the game against Bangladesh, when rain ruined a one-sided affair with Australia just inches from victory.

On the other hand, England can lose this game and nothing will change. They have not only qualified for the semifinals, but also sealed the top spot with two victories from as many games. With rain ruining other games in the group, no other team can get close enough.

In the little cricket that Australia have managed in the tournament, they have put up contrasting performances. They were ordinary against New Zealand, reduced to 51 for 3 chasing 291, but unleashed their A game on Bangladesh. The bowlers, who came under fire from Steven Smith after the New Zealand game, put up a vastly improved show.

TEAMS: Australia: Steven Smith (capt), David Warner, Pat Cummins, Aaron Finch, John Hastings, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Moises Henriques, Chris Lynn, Glenn Maxwell, James Pattinson, Mitchell Starc, Marcus Stoinis, Matthew Wade (wk), Adam Zampa.
England: Eoin Morgan (capt), Moeen Ali, Jonny Bairstow, Jake Ball, Sam Billings, Jos Buttler (wk), Steven Finn, Alex Hales, Liam Plunkett, Adil Rashid, Joe Root, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes, David Willey, Mark Wood.

But Australia’s big concern will be the lack of game time for the batsmen. They have batted only 25 overs in the two games combined, and no one after No. 4 has batted at all yet. Compare that to England, who have scored in excess of 300 in both their games, one batting first and the other while chasing. All their batsmen – barring Jason Roy – are in form, like they have been over the last two years.

THE CONDITIONS

Pakistan kept South Africa to 219 in the most recent match at Edgbaston, but the pitch for Saturday’s game is a fresh one. It could mean the venue is likely to return to being a batsman’s paradise. And here’s some good news for Australia – the forecast is promising and we should get a full game in.

THE MATCH-UP

Joe Root v Mitchell Starc

Starc seemed to take Steven Smith’s remarks on the bowlers’ show in the game against New Zealand to heart. The left-arm pacer joked that he would bowl bouncers to his captain in the nets, but if he was angry within, he took it out on Bangladesh, picking up four wickets to bowl them out for just 182. Starc will once again be key against a strong English batting line-up. The England batting order seems endless but the man holding it together is Joe Root, who has scores of 133 not out and 64 in the tournament. If Starc can get him, Australia could apply some good pressure.

Australia will be well aware of the dangers associated with a Ben Stokes special. © Getty Images

Australia will be well aware of the dangers associated with a Ben Stokes special. © Getty Images

THE WILDCARDS

AustraliaAaron Finch: Finch has scored only two half-centuries in his last 12 ODIs and has been dismissed for 8 and 19 in the two games this tournament.  But if there’s one team he loves batting against, it’s England. Three of his seven ODI centuries have come against them, and he averages 46.35 against them as opposed to his career number of 34.30. He should once again fancy his chances against his favourite opposition at a high-scoring venue.

EnglandJason Roy: Not a single press conference with Eoin Morgan has passed without a query on Roy’s form. Not without reason, for the opener has crossed 20 only once in his last ten innings. England continue to back him, though, and if he repays the faith, Australia could be in the firing line.

WATCH OUT FOR…

Ben Stokes

Not too long ago, Stokes played a massive part in Smith’s side – Rising Pune Supergiant – reaching the final of the Indian Premier League. His all-round show left Smith in awe, and the Australian captain will be well aware of the dangers associated with a Stokes special. There’s no doubt that Smith knows what Stokes is about – does he know how to stop him?