England captain Alastair Cook has defended the side's five-match one-day series against Australia, which gets under way at Lord's on Friday stating there was always something special for an Englishman to play Australia. Although one has to admit this has all the makings of an exciting contest, it is difficult to ignore the fact the decision to play these five matches was partly responsible for the axing of a fourth Test between England and South Africa, in what could potentially be a series to decide the No 1 ranking.
However, there is plenty at stake if England win the series. Cook's side are now fourth with 112 points, 11 behind the Aussies. They could replace them as the top ODI team in the world but it will require a 5-0 whitewash. Should they manage the feat, and they will be worthy of the ranking if they do, they will become the first country to be ranked number one in all formats of the game at the same time.
Australia will return to England next year for the Ashes and this series will be a good opportunity for both teams to measure each others' strengths and weaknesses.
England: Openers Cook and Ian Bell have been in sublime touch in recent games and have made sure the team has got good starts. Cook, who was long criticised for his low strike rate, has been making runs briskly of late and Jonathan Trott, who steps in at one down, has been scoring at will as well. In fact, most of the side's big scores have tended to be built around his innings. Ravi Bopara and Eoin Morgan are smart finishers and the duo, along with wicketkeeper Craig Kieswetter, can play the big shots to pile on the runs towards the dying stages or hunt down demanding targets. The bowling department is equally well-placed, with four quality pacers in Tim Bresnan, Stuart Broad, James Anderson and Steven Finn. All four are set to start the first game. The line-up will be complete with Graeme Swann's spin.
Australia: David Warner and Shane Watson make a devastating opening duo and both have a reputation for destroying the opponents' opening bowlers. George Bailey was fantastic against the West Indies and the Tasmanian will look to start from where he left off. Captain Michael Clarke will bring tons of experience when he steps out at number four, followed by David Hussey, who can change his game according to the situation. Wicketkeeper Mathew Wade and all-rounder Steven Smith will try and help to accelerate the scoring lower down the order. However, Mike Hussey's withdrawal from the series leaves a big void in the middle and will clearly be their biggest weakness.
Brett Lee might be in the twilight of a magnificent career but his fiery first over in the recent washed-out game against Ireland shows he can still be the unstoppable force he once was. Mitchell Johnson and Ben Hilfenhaus have been around for some time now and the trio will look to guide the likes of Pat Cummins, James Pattinson and Clint McKay. It will be interesting to see how Clarke rotates the pacers in this series, while spinner Xavier Doherty will be assisted by Smith to get through some quick overs.
England: A Cook (c), I Bell, J Trott, R Bopara, E Morgan, C Kieswetter (wk), T Bresnan, S Broad, G Swann, J Anderson, S Finn
Australia: D Warner, S Watson, G Bailey, M Clarke (c), D Hussey, M Wade (wk), S Smith, M Johnson, B Lee, P Cummins, X Doherty
Where to Watch Live:
You can follow the game live from 10:30 BST on Five Live Sports Extra and Radio Four LW.