Clarke considers selection options
It would be foolish to suggest England have Australia on the run after just one game of the NatWest Series.
However, touring captain Michael Clarke admits he and coach Mickey Arthur have plenty to ponder following a 15-run defeat at Lord’s that leaves the number-one ranked one-day international team playing catch-up heading into tomorrow’s second match of five at the Kia Oval.
Clarke’s men could easily have triumphed at the home of cricket, but were ultimately found wanting in key passages.
Eoin Morgan’s fearsome hitting at the death propelled England to 272 for five, a total they had initially looked unlikely to achieve, while Australia were twice guilty of losing a brace of wickets – at 96 for one and 204 for five - just when they had appeared to have gained the upper hand.
A clearly frustrated Clarke offered a blunt assessment of Australia’s failings.
“They outplayed us in all facets,” he said of England. “They batted better, didn’t lose wickets at crucial times and their death bowling and powerplay bowling; their execution was very good.
“There were areas that were really positive for us, but I guess the areas for us to improve quickly are our death bowling and losing wickets at very important stages of the game, which probably hurt us most.”
The balance of Australia’s team has provoked much debate.
Wicketkeeper Matthew Wade, a player often utilised as an opener in 50-over cricket, came in at seven yesterday, below leg-spinning all-rounder Steven Smith, who was not called upon to bowl.
Smith looked unconvincing in making eight, but Wade was well-set on 27 before being run out following a mix-up with Clarke that put the brakes on Australia’s run-chase.
Pressed on whether Wade may be moved up the order, Clarke responded: “He can bat anywhere and he showed that again. He’s a wonderful talent, a very good striker of the ball and it’s tough because he plays the new ball well and is quite positive but he’s very good at the death as well.
“It’s trying to work out what is best for the team; I guess that’s most important for us at the moment.
“We have got a good squad so we can have a look at the guys who didn’t play, look at the areas of the game where we need to improve and we’ll make a plan.”
While Australia consider changes to their line-up, England can reflect on a positive all-round performance, although skipper Alastair Cook is adamant they too have room for improvement.
“If we are being really harsh on ourselves I don’t think it was a perfect performance in the field, or close to it, so that’s encouraging,” said Cook.
It remains to be seen whether paceman James Anderson will be able to feature tomorrow, after he suffered obvious discomfort in returning 2-55 from nine overs at Lord’s.
“There is a slight worry about his groin; we are just going to have to assess him,” Cook conceded.
Should Anderson prove his fitness, few would be surprised to see England stick with the same attack that delivered an encouraging all-round performance in the series-opener.
Australia could well make alterations to their bowling department, with the likes of James Pattinson, Ben Hilfenhaus and Mitchell Johnson all waiting in the wings, although Clarke bristled at the suggestion he may look to ‘give everyone a go’ over the next couple of weeks.
“I want to win. I don’t care what 11 players take the field,” said the 31-year-old. “I want to pick the best XI to help us win the game.
“It’s not five trial games for us, it’s five international one-dayers. We need to improve our one-day cricket and we’re here to win.”