|Ground:||Lord's Cricket Ground, St John's Wood|
|Event:||Australia in England and Ireland 2012|
England v Australia, ODI Series, Preview
England will have an opportunity to achieve the number-one ranking in the ICC one-day internationals (ODI) Championship table when they meet their traditional rival Australia in a NatWest five-match ODI series which starts at Lord's today.
Taking on Australia in any one of the three formats of the game is always a great challenge and this NatWest series will be no different. England currently sit in fourth position on 112 ratings points, 11 points behind number-one-ranked Australia. But this will change if they win all five ODIs of the series as they will then take over the No.1 spot, a position that they will be holding in all three formats of the game at the same time, becoming the first team to do so and that is a great incentive for them.
Having defeated West Indies in the ODI series completed last week, England have now won their last six ODI series at home and this gives them enormous confidence. But England captain Alastair Cook said: "Let's not get too carried away at the start of the series with what is the world number one now. They are a very good side and they have proven that over a number of years and we'll have to be at our absolute best to win the series. We are very much a developing one-day side and we are desperate to keep going up the rankings, we have plenty of stuff to keep working on, to keep improving on and get good results."
He added: "We have done well at home and we're used to our conditions and hopefully we can use that to our advantage. We are progressing as a team and people (players) are starting to feel comfortable in their roles in the set up but that doesn't count for anything when you walk out on the pitch with what you've done previously, so we've got a real good test of ourselves now. They (Australia) have proved they are going to be a dangerous one-day side and a tough side.
However, if Australia make a clean sweep of the series, then they will extend their lead in terms of rating points in the rankings, while England will slip down to fifth position. Australia's preparation has been short but effective. They played two matches against strong county sides, Leicestershire and Essex and won both comfortably. The second match was won by the 179 runs in which captain Michael Clarke hit 76 before retiring not out and David Hussey made 67 in a total of 313 in 50 overs. The bowlers too performed well in dismissing the opposition for only 124 with the highly promising fast bowler 19-year-old Pat Cummins having a good work out in taking three for 26.
Clarke said: "We have a few guys who have never played international cricket in the UK so it's a good opportunity for them to see the conditions but our focus is 100 per cent on these five one-day matches. They (England) are playing some really good cricket and they have had a lot of success in their own backyard so we know there is going to be some really tough cricket and we'll have to be at our best to compete with them. We've got a few who haven't experienced English conditions so itís going to be new to them, different wickets, but itís a great opportunity and itís going to be a good experience."
Asked if it was quite exciting for him to lead the side with these younger players who have made a good impression and got quite a reputation already, Clarke said: "I have enjoyed the opportunity to captain Australia, there have been some challenges so far and Iím sure there will be a lot more. We are improving, we are getting better everyday. Our work ethic has been the stand out for me, the way the boys are training, the way our coaches are pushing us, every training session is very enjoyable."
He went on to say: "But itís a long way to go before we are the team we hope to be. This is going to be a good test against a very good English one-day team, a lot of confidence under their belt. They have been playing some really consistent cricket. It is important for us to play well and hopefully stay at No. 1. Our goal as an Australian team in all three forms of the game is to be No.1 in the world and stay there."
(Article: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author only.
Copyright © 2012 Andy Jalil)