England v Australia: Cook, Hussey and Bell will be the key batsmen
William Roe looks at three batsmen with a point to prove ahead of the ODI series between England and Australia
Captain Cook must conquer Australia – again!
After a superb Ashes performance with the bat last year, England’s one-day international skipper Alastair Cook will want to show he can be the brains behind another victory over the Australians. The Essex batsman will begin his second series on home soil as captain of the ODI side, following a comfortable series victory over a lacklustre West Indies side. Despite saying recently that England’s first Ashes series victory Down Under in over 20 years will have no bearing on this one-off five-match ODI clash, the 27-year-old will be keen to master the Aussies as a leader of men. In Australia’s most recent warm-up against his home county, Cook learned that Michael Clarke’s team are here to do the business after a 179-run thrashing at Chelmsford. England’s skipper managed only five in that match before being dismissed by Clint McKay. Cook’s appointment to lead England’s ODI side was a surprise, considering he did not feature in the team’s most recent World Cup campaign. The left-hander has never played a ODI fixture for England against Australia, so the pressure on his shoulders may be slightly heavier than the Three Lions may have hoped.
Hussey must take command in older brother’s absence
Australian batsman David Hussey has a chance to stamp his authority on the team’s middle order after his brother pulled out of the tour due to personal circumstances. Michael Hussey, dubbed ‘Mr Cricket’, is one of the best finishers of an innings in world cricket. David now has a chance now to prove his worth in Australia’s middle order, and with an accomplished 67 off just 66 balls in the tourist’s comprehensive warm-up victory over Essex, the 34-year-old looks like he is in the right form to do so. The battle of the middle order will be crucial, with England likely to have Tim Bresnan batting at No7, a place arguably too high in ODI cricket for the gutsy Yorkshire all-rounder. So if Hussey gets in the kind of form that has seen him score 1,488 runs at international level it may be key for the outcome of the series. However, the Perth born right-hander will know that an England attack featuring James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann in home conditions will be as tough as it comes for the Australians.
Bell must finally shake Aussie monkey from his back
With the loss of crowd favourite Kevin Pietersen to retirement, England’s hierarchy decided to bring back Ian Bell to the ODI fold rather than seek to bring through some young blood. They were repaid in kind with a century against West Indies on his return to the one-day arena. But all eyes will be on the Warwickshire batsman against the old enemy from Down Under. Whilst making his way at Test level, Bell struggled tremendously with Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne in the 2005 Ashes series, before conquering his demons and finally showing his mettle and scoring an Ashes ton in his most recent innings in Australia. The 30-year-old batsman may not be as electric at the crease as the recently departed Pietersen, who has left a huge hole to fill, but Bell is England’s most technically gifted player and when on song the results can be as effective. Opening the batting, England will be hoping he can put an inexperienced Australian attack to the sword.
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