It’s Australia v England at Lord’s in a World Cup after the biggest scandal in recent Oz cricket history – no biggie!
With a finals spot all but assured, Australia has mostly pride on the line, but a win tonight (AEST) would do what Aussies like best out of their cricket – make things difficult for England.
Sri Lanka’s upset win over the hosts has elevated it to fifth, within two points of England in fourth position.
With remaining games against the teams above it – Australia, New Zealand and India – the hosts still need to find two wins to ensure their place in the semi-finals.
As for Australia, coach Justin Langer maintains there is no complacency, with the 5-1 start to the World Cup coming after the annus horribilis that reached a low point with the upheaval caused by the ball-tampering scandal.
“One thing you will not have to worry about – from where we have come from in the past 12 months – is (whether) the Australian cricket team will get complacent,” Langer said.
“Don’t lose one second of sleep about it.”
Tuesday’s game also shapes as the spiciest of the World Cup so far for Australia, with Steve Smith and David Warner set to play their first official games against England since the South African scandal.
The pair have received far friendlier receptions in their past three games, but Langer is well aware things will be different at Lord’s.
Warner is still expected to play through the tournament, with wife Candice heavily pregnant and due to give birth between Saturday’s game against New Zealand and the following Saturday’s clash with South Africa.
Meanwhile, Langer is happy to see a positive in his team’s end to the round-robin stage, as it jostles for finishing positions in the event.
“We’ve got England, New Zealand and South Africa, three really tough teams which we have had good contests before with,” Langer said.
I always believe if you are nice and battle hardened, you might be a bit weary but nothing really surprises you.’’
For its part England is revelling in a new freewheeling batting line-up that came about after the disastrous 2015 World Cup campaign.
England has gone from scoring at 4.71 an over in the lead up to that tournament to 6.31 before this year’s event.
Skipper Eoin Morgan said there was a conscious decision to give as much importance to 50-over cricket as Tests.
“Learning from the 2015 World Cup was a huge part of that,” Morgan said before this year’s tournament.
“And the cornerstone of the thinking and how we were going to change how we played.”
Batsmen are given the freedom to go at the ball throughout the innings, with four of their top seven have a strike-rate above 115 for the tournament, headlined by Eoin Morgan’s world-record 17 sixes against Afghanistan last week.
Australia’s batsmen also have the power to rack up big scores, with a flexible line-up that has seen Usman Khawaja batting at No.3, No.4 and No.6 in England as well as opening in warm-up games.
Australia has built its game around adaptability, with Khawaja, Smith and Glenn Maxwell all moving around depending on the game situation and left and right-hand combinations.
The left-hander told AAP it’s been an exciting development.
“It’s all above board,” Khawaja said.
“Everyone is communicating, everyone is talking and no one of myself, Smithy or Maxi, really have any issue batting anywhere.
“I think all of us have to adapt to different situations. We are all fine.”
After being keen to stay at the top before the tournament, Khawaja is yet to open in the competition proper following Warner’s return.
The Queenslander averages 53.6 there, as opposed to 27.07 elsewhere in the order. His strike rate is also higher, with a feeling among some ex-players that he finds it easier to hit gaps when the ball is new and the field is up.
Khawaja hit 89 in Thursday’s win over Bangladesh – his first score above 45 for the tournament – but he said he hadn’t been panicking for runs after holding out Shaun Marsh for his spot.
“I was feeling really good every time I went out there, to be honest,” he said.
Australia and England have already met once since the defending champions’ touched down in the country, with Australia winning a warm-up match in Southampton.
That game included few of England’s top-line batsmen, with former player Paul Collingwood even being brought on as a substitute fielder at one stage.
Australia and England have a storied rivalry in World Cup cricket. Here are five of the best
BOWLERS DOMINATE AT HEADINGLEY, 1975 SEMI-FINAL
In what still remains the lowest-scoring World Cup finals match of all time, Aussie quick Gary Gilmour (6-14) rolled through England’s top five as none reached double figures.
Only 56 runs for the final three wickets helped them to 93, but Australia found themselves in just as much strife at 6-39. Gilmour again starred with 28no as he and Doug Walters (20no) took Australia home safely before losing to the West Indies in the final.
GATTING’S REVERSE SWEEP HAUNTS ENGLAND, 1987 FINAL
Still the World Cup’s closest final after it went down to the last over in Kolkata.
Chasing 254 for victory, England looked in a good position at 2-135 when Mike Gatting inexplicably tried to reverse sweep Allan Border. It ballooned to wicketkeeper Greg Dyer, sparking a run of English wickets.
England eventually required 17 off the last over, but fell seven short of Australia’s total and handing their rivals its first title.
The Aussies have since won four more World Cups, while England is yet to break its duck.
BOTHAM’S FINAL ACT, 1992 GROUP MATCH
Ian Botham used his last international match against Australia to all but push it out of their home World Cup when he took 4-31 to have the defending champions all out for 171 at the SCG.
Having already lost to New Zealand and South Africa, Australia copped its third defeat in four games when the all-rounder hit 53 at the top of the order to guide England home with eight wickets and 9.1 overs to spare.
It remains the team’s last win over the Aussies in a World Cup.
ANDY BICHEL’S HEROICS, 2003 GROUP MATCH
Queensland quick Andrew Bichel provided with the bat and ball to save Australia from an unlikely defeat at Port Elizabeth.
In his finest hour as an international cricketer, Bichel claimed career-best figures of 7-20 to reduce England to 8-204.
In reply, Australia was in trouble at 8-135 before Bichel hit 34 not out from 36 balls to combine with renowned finisher Michael Bevan (74 not out off 126) to secure victory with two balls to spare.
AUSTRALIA BEGIN 2015 WORLD CUP WITH WIN, GROUP MATCH
Aaron Finch began Australia’s home World Cup in emphatic fashion as he blasted 135 off 128 balls at the MCG.
Glenn Maxwell also showed a sign of things to come with 66 from 40 deliveries.
England was never really in the chase as Mitchell Marsh took 5-33 in the 111-run win, but the game was not devoid of drama.
James Taylor (98 not out) was denied a century for England after James Anderson was ruled run out after overturning a lbw decision against him on the same ball.
England was unhappy, and the ICC later admitted error.