It was only five months ago when England and Australia stood toe-to-toe and traded blows in a closely fought Ashes series. When the two sides meet in the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup fixture here on Saturday, the Ashes will feel like a different lifetime.
Little to no hope
There is no fight left in England. The unit, designated favourite at the start of the tournament, has inexplicably plummeted to five losses in six matches. The disastrous run has sunk the team to the bottom of the points table, with little to no hope of a revival.
Skipper Jos Buttler has the toughest job in the world now — tasked with motivating a group of players who seemed to have checked out. Who can he count on to rise up among the ruins? Despite helming a side packed with quality, proven talent, there are no ready answers.
The likes of Ben Stokes, Moeen Ali, Joe Root and a few others who competed in the Ashes can take motivation from the never-say-die attitude shown in that five-match Test series, when England clawed its way back from 0-2 down to level the series.
Australia faces a challenge too, even if it is a far easier fix when compared to its familiar foe.
Maverick Glenn Maxwell and all-rounder Mitchell Marsh are not available for selection. Maxwell suffered a concussion in a freak golf accident, while Marsh has flown back home for personal reasons.
Marcus Stoinis and Cameron Green, who have played three and two games, respectively, in this World Cup, are likely to re-enter the fray as replacements.
Skipper Pat Cummins must be mighty pleased to see opener Travis Head make a stellar comeback after not being available for the first five games. Head justified the faith shown in him by smashing a 67-ball 109 in a close win over New Zealand a few days ago.
A win here will prove crucial to Australia’s quest to qualify for the semifinals.
With India and South Africa leading the pack, third-placed Australia will need to stay on the right track in this business end to finish in the top four.
Toss could be crucial
The toss could play a big factor, as chasing teams have posted comfortable victories in the two matches played at the Narendra Modi stadium here. Incidentally, this is the venue where England’s nightmare campaign started, with a nine-wicket loss to New Zealand.
Will the real England please stand up?
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