England v Australia: Talking points ahead of upcoming ODI series

Alex Hales on the charge for England
Alex Hales on the charge for England

England's limited-overs schedule this summer will truly kick into gear with a one-day international series against Australia.

England are 4/7 to win the first ODI, with the tourists 11/8 to strike the first blow in the series.

Eoin Morgan's side will play five matches in the space of 15 days against the tourists, who are back in action for the first time since the calamitous tour of South Africa earlier this year.

Take a look at five talking points ahead of cricket's oldest rivals going head to head.

Strong and stable

England arguably plumbed new depths at the last World Cup when they exited in the group stages with barely a whimper. Their subsequent transformation has been nothing short of remarkable and six series wins on the spin have taken them to the top of the ODI rankings. While there are plenty of vacancies in the Test team, England's 50-over side almost chooses itself with only one or two spaces possibly up for grabs. A largely settled line-up is one of the reasons why they are strong contenders to go all the way at next year's World Cup on home soil.

Hales for Stokes?

There will be one enforced change, at least for the start of the series, as all-rounder Ben Stokes recovers from a hamstring injury. However, England's deep reserves of talent mean no squad member is irreplaceable. Stokes' well-publicised legal issues precluded him from England's ODI series win in Australia earlier this year and, on that occasion, Alex Hales was brought in to further bolster the top order. The Nottinghamshire big-hitter will likely do so again unless England opt for a different approach and choose Sam Billings.

Australia's new chapter

This tour marks the start of a new era for Australia, who are seeking to rebuild from the ball-tampering scandal in South Africa earlier this year that led to the suspensions of captain Steve Smith and vice-captain David Warner. The tourists are further weakened by the absence of injured fast bowlers Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood, the trio whose presence proved so instrumental in the Ashes. England would have been favourites had the quintet been available but are more overwhelmingly so now.

The 'L' word

Australia's talk of the 'line' was as ubiquitous as it was much-maligned and even toxic during the Ashes, so there was a fair degree of schadenfreude when their misdeeds in South Africa were exposed. Australia have attempted to draw a line under the controversy but captain Tim Paine and new head coach Justin Langer have insisted that Australia will continue to sledge on the field. Indeed, Langer claimed that sledging is in Australia's DNA but warned: "There's a difference between banter and abuse. There's no room for abuse anywhere."

Overkill

England are only six months removed from their tour of Australia, where they bounced back from their Ashes humbling to clinch a hugely impressive 4-1 series victory on the ODI leg of the tour. There is some logic to the England hierarchy's apparent prioritising of the white-ball formats, especially with the 2019 World Cup in mind, but another 50-over series between these teams seems excessive. Plenty would have preferred a decider against Pakistan after an entertaining two-Test series was left tantalisingly poised at one win apiece.

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