Preview by Bharat Sundaresan
“The Crown and Us” is a documentary that the ABC released to explore the story of the Royals in Australia earlier this year. It’s an interesting watch, and while it’s supposed to reveal the changing relationship between Australians and the monarchy that’s ruled their former “mother land”, it only exposes how the umbilical between the two countries hasn’t been completely severed yet. Funnily enough, only a couple of months after the documentary hit the digital platforms, every TV channel Down Under was obsessing over the impending birth of the Royal baby of Sussex.
On the day, Prince Harry announced to the world that their son had been named Archie, radio channels in Adelaide featured a number of shops and shop owners around the city with the same name about what it felt like to have a far-fetched connection to the British monarchy. So while there has been a generational shift in how Aussies view the monarchy, they haven’t completely moved on for sure. Well, they even had the same national anthem till 35 years ago.
Perhaps the cricket field is the only place where the strangely symptomatic links between the two countries does get tested, if not forgotten. For, when Australia and England meet each other in a bat and ball contest, they don’t feel like comrades or compatriots. They are rivals, bitter ones at that. And at times they take as much pleasure in winning as in the other losing. And when they walk out at Lord’s on Tuesday (June 25), it’ll only be the first of many times during this English summer that the historic rivalry will take centre-stage. And there’s a lot riding on the match for both teams, and the venue only adds to the drama.
It’s an odd World Cup in some ways, where England have entered as favourites and Australia as the “dangerous on their day” outfit. And it’s also perhaps the first time in World Cup history that neutrals are rejoicing more when England lose rather than rallying against Australia, as has been the case all these years when the five-time world champions were at their dominant best.
But how bad do Australia really want to win the World Cup again? Certainly not as badly as England do. This is the first time since 1975 after all that they are here for a World Cup and an Ashes series back to back. So whatever they do in this tournament is likely to be pushed to the background regardless of whether they retain or lose the Ashes in two-and-a-half months’ time. They last beat England in England in a series back in 2001 after all, and they’ve won three World Cups since. For England, the World Cup is the much-desired culmination of a four-year investment into transforming their ODI game. Their defeat against Sri Lanka though has left them in a precarious position with having to beat two of Australia, New Zealand and India. A loss against Aaron Finch & Co could derail what had till that point been a rather straightforward World Cup campaign, despite the early loss to Pakistan. As Finch put it, “Australia v England at Lord’s in the World Cup, doesn’t get bigger than this.”
When: England v Australia, CWC 19, 10.30 Local, 15.00 IST
Where: Lord’s, London
What to Expect: What do you do first when you enter Lord’s? Pose for a picture of course, and the Australians began their pre-match practice session by doing exactly that. Out came a garden bench so long that it managed to seat a majority of the squad and their massive support staff. It was a good day for a team portrait too. The sun was shining over London, and the temperatures had finally snuck into the 20s. And the light was just perfect, till the time the weather turned slightly as soon as the picture was clicked, and thick droplets of rain began slamming the Lord’s surface. The Australians though weren’t to be undone by the fickleness of the English weather and did go on to have a rather intense practice session with every top-order batsmen spending nearly half-hour in the nets, and at one point Steve Smith even morphing into “Moeen Ali” with his off-spinners to Usman Khawaja. Rains are forecast all through the night on Monday but the weather’s expected to be clear and cloudy by toss-time, and Lord’s is expected to cope well enough to deal with the showers and ensure the game goes forward with no interruptions.
The return of Marcus Stoinis for the game against Bangladesh allowed Australia to field their preferred playing XI at Nottingham. And it’s likely to remain the same against England. Nathan Lyon, who’s yet to make his World Cup debut, will be expected to be a major factor for the latter half of the summer, but will the Aussies want to give the English a premature taste of what’s to come? Maybe not.
Probable XI: David Warner, Aaron Finch (c), Usman Khawaja, Steve Smith, Glenn Maxwell, Marcus Stoinis, Alex Carey (wk), Nathan Coulter-Nile, Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Adam Zampa
Jason Roy’s absence has left a massive dent at the top of the order for England, and for all his classy 30s, James Vince simply doesn’t pose the same threat for the opposition bowling attack. But they have no choice but to stick to him. Australia have never faced Jofra Archer before in an international even though it was in the BBL that the Bajan-born English fast bowler made his first major global impression. Though Liam Plunkett has been among their leading wicket-takers, Tom Curran has always done well against the Aussies, who just have found his combative fast medium bothersome with the white-ball, and if that’s the only potential change that the hosts might contemplate.
Probable XI: Jonny Bairstow, James Vince, Joe Root, Eoin Morgan (c), Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler (wk), Moeen Ali, Chris Woakes, Jofra Archer, Liam Plunkett/Tom Curran, Adil Rashid
England (From): James Vince, Jonny Bairstow, Joe Root, Eoin Morgan(c), Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler(w), Moeen Ali, Chris Woakes, Adil Rashid, Jofra Archer, Mark Wood, Liam Plunkett, Tom Curran, Liam Dawson
Australia (From): David Warner, Aaron Finch(c), Usman Khawaja, Steven Smith, Glenn Maxwell, Marcus Stoinis, Alex Carey(w), Nathan Coulter-Nile, Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Adam Zampa, Shaun Marsh, Kane Richardson, Jason Behrendorff, Nathan Lyon