What a difference a whitewash makes. Preview coverage of tonight’s opening match in the one day series in the mainstream press has been rather muted compared to the seemingly interminable build-up to the first Ashes Test, even despite the fact that this triangular series with England and New Zealand will be the last major warm-up ahead of the World Cup starting in March.
The prevailing theory is that the Aussies will continue on their merry way after a dominant Test series, but who says they will continue to have it all their own way?
It’s easy to forget in the aftermath of the Ashes defeat in 2005 that the Australians could only manage to tie the triangular one day series with England (after the Aussies rather ingloriously lost to Bangladesh in the round robin phase of the tournament) on that fateful tour.
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And despite the Poms’ wretched recent history in the 50 over game, they did manage a couple of convincing wins – including a nine wicket hammering – over the world champions just 18 months ago.
What about the third wheel in this continuing summer orgy of cricket? New Zealand’s presence in this tournament has almost been forgotten amid the expectation that this series will offer Aussie fans another glorious opportunity to press the Poms’ noses further into the dirt, however they have a more than handy record against the Aussies in recent summers.
Despite losing last year’s Chappell-Hadlee series in New Zealand, the Kiwis scored a remarkable two-wicket win after chasing down an improbable total of 331 in the final day-nighter in Christchurch.
It’s also timely to remember that the last time the Australians failed to make the final of their own triangular series was in the summer of 2001/02, when New Zealand and South Africa conspired to keep the hosts out of their own party.
And what about the Aussies? Well, there’s every reason to believe that they will be over-confident after their recent ICC Champions Trophy and Ashes victories.
Any lineup that can count on the world’s best batsman (Ponting), possibly the most destructive one day hitter (Symonds) and history’s greatest ever wicketkeeper-batsman (Gilchrist) must surely be at least a little too self-assured.
Merge that with an expensive wicket-taking one day paceman in Brett Lee, a miserly yet ageing quick (McGrath) and a relatively obscure one-day specialist spinner (Hogg) and you have all the ingredients for a massive upset over the length of the one day series.