MCG will host the first match of the Australia leg of the World Cup 2015 between the two old rivals, hosts and 3 time World Champions Australia and the Father of Cricket England. Australia seems to be in a pink of health with almost all their key batsmen in form and all their bowlers bowling fast and furious. The return to full fitness of their astute captain Michael Clarke will be a shot in the arm for the Aussies as well (though he will miss the game against England)!
The heroes of the epic 2003 clash between Australia and England
- Andy Bichel and Michael Bevan -
after clinching victory from the jaws of defeat at Port Elizabeth in South Africa
Aaron Finch and David Warner will be looking to provide blistering starts at the top of the order. Shane Watson holds on to the much important number 3 spot though he has been in horrible form of late. It would be much better if Australia can draft in Mitch Marsh in at that place thus enabling them to play an extra bowler. The superb Steve Smith will be a thorn in the middle order and with the dependable George Bailey and the explosive madman Glenn 'Bigshow' Maxwell to follow, I expect Australia to rake up a big score. There is also the underrated Haddin and Mitch Marsh to wield the long handle at the end if required.
The bowling of the Aussies is also mightily strong with a rejuvenated Mitchell Johnson and Mitchell Starc both bowling with pace and generating swing and bounce! The injury to Faulkner must hurt them at some point of time but they seem to have all bases covered with the young Pat Cummins, Josh Hazelwood and Mitch Marsh in the squad as well! There is also Xavier Dohorty but I expect that the Australians will rather not play him.
England seem to have shrugged off their old habits as well with a change at the top with their dour captain Alaistair Cook being replaced with the more dynamic Eoin Morgan. Moeen Ali is still a work in progress as far as his consistency is concerned but he is well equipped with all the shots and he will be partnered by the much improved Ian Bell. James Taylor has made the number three position his own with spunky performances in a short duration of time and Joe Root continues to impress and can pace his innings as per the condition of the match. They will be followed by Jos Buttler, a fine young batsman who can take the opposition bowlers to the cleaners in the slog overs. He will have the experienced Ravi Bopara for the big hitting at the back end though Bopara has been struggling to find his touch recently.
James Anderson is one of the finest bowlers going around in this game and he is supported by the ultra aggressive Stuart Broad who can be devastating on his day. Steve Finn is back after rediscovering his mojo and Chris Woakes has flowered into a dependable all rounder. They also have James Tredwell if they require some steady dose of spin.
Key Battles: Australia Vs England
Mitchell (Johnson and Starc) vs The English Top 3 of Moeen Ali, Ian Bell and James Taylor
James Anderson vs David Warner
Chris Woakes vs Glenn Maxwell
This match will give us an idea if England has really improved and how far can they progress in this World Cup. I really think that they have it in them to reach the semi finals at least but a big loss in the opening game can very easily see them return to the old habits of just going through the motions in limited overs cricket. Australia on the other hand will be supremely confident heading into the encounter knowing fully well that they are the ones holding all the aces. But home pressure can do some funny things and they will have to ensure that the crowd is right behind them from the beginning. Valentine’s Day may be celebrated on the 14th of February but do not expect any love between these two proud sides, which of them comes out victorious in this 'Love of War' is all that remains to be seen.
What do you think will be the outcome of this match? Who will the key players?