Australia's middle-overs woes and other talking points ahead of fourth ODI against England

Ashish Peter 25/01/2018
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Australia's struggles in the middle-overs has been a major problem.

Having already captured the series after taking an unassailable 3-0 lead, England will be hoping to ramp up the pressure on hosts Australia when the two sides meet for the fourth ODI at the Adelaide Oval on Friday.

After relinquishing the Ashes urn in a 4-0 loss, the tourists have shown they are a completely different animal when it comes to the limited-overs format and have brutally exposed the shortcomings of the Aussies.

We look at the key talking points ahead of Friday’s encounter.

ENGLAND GUNNING FOR HISTORIC WHITEWASH

Throughout the course of history, no team has ever whitewashed Australia at home in a bilateral ODI series. After drawing a blank in the Ashes, England will be hoping to give Steve Smith’s men a taste of their own medicine.

They will have their tails up after looking head and shoulders above the Aussies in the first three ODIs. While nothing quite compares to the Ashes, a whitewash in the limited-overs will salvage some pride for the wounded Englishmen after a disastrous tour.

England will not want to take their foot off the gas.

England will not want to take their foot off the gas.

TOM CURRAN AND DAVID WILLEY VYE FOR PLUNKETT’S SPOT

Liam Plunkett has been in good form in the limited-overs format for England. The tall pacer went down clutching his hamstring in the victory at Sydney and has been ruled out of the last two ODIs.

England have the option of Tom Curran and David Willey available to them to take Plunkett’s place. The latter seems more likely given that he has performed well for the Perth Scorchers in the ongoing Big Bash League (BBL) while Curran has not featured since the final two Ashes Tests.

David Willey has been in good form for the Perth Scorchers.

David Willey has been in good form for the Perth Scorchers.

AUSTRALIA’S MIDDLE-OVERS PROBLEM

Throughout the series, Australia have got off to good starts with the bat given Aaron Finch’s and David Warner’s consistent contributions. Where they have fallen well short of their English rivals is in the middle-overs where their inability to accelerate the scoring has left them with all to do in the death overs.

Smith’s 45-ball 66 in the third ODI underlined this issue with the Australian skipper managing just one boundary in the entire innings. England on the other hand have never lifted their foot off the accelerator in the middle overs with the likes of Joe Root and Eoin Morgan keeping things ticking along nicely.

The hosts will need to take a cue from the tourists if they are to salvage anything from the remaining two games.

Smith's inability to score quick has hurt Australia in the latter overs.

Smith’s inability to score quick has hurt Australia in the latter overs.

GLENN MAXWELL TO REPLACE AARON FINCH?

Finch has been enjoying one of the best purple patches of his career with two centuries and a fifty in the first three matches. Therefore, his loss to injury for the remaining two encounters will be hugely felt by the hosts.

They have called up maverick batsman Glenn Maxwell as a replacement for the injured opener but it remains to be seen if Smith opts for him in the playing XI on Friday.

Given Smith’s public criticism prior to the series of Maxwell’s training intensity, it is not improbable to see the latter miss out to Travis Head although Australia could definitely use some of his big-hitting in the middle overs.

Maxwell could be the antidote to Australia's middle-overs woes.

Maxwell could be the antidote to Australia’s middle-overs woes.

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Pakistan break their New Zealand jinx and other talking points as Sarfraz Ahmed's men beat New Zealand in second T20I

Ashish Peter 25/01/2018
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Pakistan have finally ended their losing run against New Zealand.

Having lost the first T20I at Wellington, the onus was on Pakistan to keep the series alive when they took on New Zealand in the second game at Auckland on Thursday.

Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed elected to bat first after winning the toss and his decision was vindicated as the tourists put on a mammoth 201-4 in their 20 overs. In reply, the Kiwis were bowled out for 153 in the penultimate over of the match to hand the visitors a 48-run victory to tie the series at 1-1.

We look at the key talking points of a high-scoring encounter at Auckland.

PAKISTAN’S OPENERS FINALLY FIRE

Throughout the tour of New Zealand, Pakistan have failed to find a decent opening stand. Bar a couple of fifties from Fakhar Zaman in the ODI series, the lack of runs at the top has only increased the pressure on the batsmen in the middle-order.

On Thursday, Pakistan could have no complaints from their openers as Fakhar and a returning Ahmed Shehzad set-up the innings beautifully. The former in particular looked to be in his zone as he carted three sixes and five-boundaries in a 28-ball 50.

Shehzad proved to be the perfect foil for Fakhar and together, the two put on 94 runs for the first wicket, paving the way for a huge total.

Fakhar and Shehzad gave Pakistan a rollicking start with the bat.

Fakhar and Shehzad gave Pakistan a rollicking start with the bat.

BABAR AZAM AND SARFRAZ PROVIDE THE PERFECT FINISH

After a brisk stand, both Pakistan openers fell in quick succession. From that point on, Babar Azam and skipper Sarfraz Ahmed took on the mantle to further Pakistan’s progress.

The number three batsman has looked out of sorts in the tour so far but on Thursday he was back to his very best as he brought out his fluent and pleasing to the eye stroke play.

Sarfraz provided some late fireworks with three sixes in a 34-ball 41 cameo while Azam remained unbeaten on 50 as Pakistan breached the 200-run mark. The 201-run total is the highest-ever scored against New Zealand in a T20I.

Babar Azam was back to his best after enduring a lean patch.

Babar Azam was back to his best after enduring a lean patch.

TOM BRUCE’S RUN-OUT STARTS MINI KIWI COLLAPSE

Pakistan’s pacers had started the defence of 201 in the perfect manner as they removed the dangerous Colin Munro and Kane Williamson fell early.

However, the job was not complete with New Zealand’s T20 credentials. Tom Bruce had just got himself set when he took off for a quick single after dragging the ball to mid-wicket. From there with just one stump to aim for, Haris Sohail’s direct hit caught Bruce well short of his crease.

Pakistan’s young leg-spinner Shadab Khan then got into the action with two big wickets. He first had Martin Guptill caught at short-third man and then removed Colin de Grandhomme with a beautiful delivery. The latter had carted the youngster for a six and then a boundary but Shadab had the last laugh as he deceived the batsman with flight and turn to have him stumped by a country mile.

Within the space of a few overs, New Zealand went from 47-2 to 64-6, all but ending their hopes of an extraordinary chase.

Sohail's direct hit caught Bruce well short to start a New Zealand collapse.

Sohail’s direct hit caught Bruce well short to start a New Zealand collapse.

PAKISTAN BREAK KIWI JINX

Before Thursday’s encounter, Pakistan had endured a miserable time against the Black Caps. The subcontinent side had lost 13 successive games across all formats to the New Zealand ever since their win in the first T20I at Wellington in 2016.

They were handed a 5-0 thrashing in the preceding ODI series and when they went down tamely in the first T20I, it looked like another whitewash would be on the cards.

Hence, the 48-run win on Thursday not only helps them level the three-match series at 1-1, it also breaks the stronghold the hosts seemed to have developed over them.

The relief on the faces of the players says it all.

The relief on the faces of the players says it all.

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England's ODI side keen to make history in Australia with whitewash, claims Moeen Ali

Rory Dollard 25/01/2018
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Moeen Ali says England’s series-winning side are motivated to finish the job in Australia by the talent sitting on the sidelines.

Having already taken a decisive 3-0 lead, the tourists are looking to keep alive their hopes of a historic whitewash with another success in Adelaide.

There will be one enforced change for Friday’s Australia Day clash, Liam Plunkett out with the hamstring strain he suffered in Sydney leaving David Willey and Tom Curran primed for a recall.

But, with a first ever 5-0 scoreline against Australia still on the cards, there is no appetite for rest or rotation among the rest of the team.

Sam Billings, Dawid Malan and Jake Ball are the other squad members snapping at the heels of the first XI and, with Ben Stokes also set to return once he has appeared in court on a charge of affray, nobody wants to surrender their spot.

“Everyone is keen to make history here, 3-0 up is a great position and everyone is keen to be on the park, to keep playing the way we’re playing,” he said.

“We’ve got some brilliant players who can’t get into the team and you don’t want to give your spot up. You want to be part of this team.

“The guys who are not in are training so hard to try and get in but at the moment, the way we’re playing, everyone is doing something on the field and it’s hard to get in.

“You see the guys guys who aren’t in – obviously Ben Stokes, who hopefully is going to come back into the team and make it even stronger, players like Sam Billings and Tom Curran who are terrific white-ball players and can’t get into the team and that shows where we are at the moment.”

Despite his enthusiasm, Moeen will be stepping aside for the forthcoming Twenty20 tri-series, an almost inevitable consequence of his status as a three-format player and the exhaustive nature of the schedule.

And while a period of time at home certainly appeals, he has also seen at first hand the benefits of reinvigorating the squad with changes between formats.

Will make a return soon: Ben Stokes

Ben Stokes is set to return to action soon.

“We did that a couple of years ago, where Jimmy (Anderson) and Broady (Stuart Broad) stopped playing white-ball cricket,” he said.

“We’ve got bowlers now who are fresh when they come into these teams. After the Ashes series we had Mark Wood and Liam Plunkett, who are guys that bowl fast.

“When you’ve played the Ashes and lost and those fresh faces come in to lift the dressing room the environment is completely different.

“I’m going to miss being around for those two weeks and playing the T20s but it’s been a long time. I’m not looking forward to the cold but I’m looking forward to getting home and seeing the family for a couple of weeks.”

Provided by Press Association Sport

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