Team profile: Australia
Australia have won the last two installments and will be keen to make it a hat-trick of victories in the final staging of the event. This is not the same team, however, that comprehensively captured the trophy in the previous tournaments. There is a completely new leadership panel in coach Mickey Arthur and captain Michael Clarke, and the rest of the side is very inexperienced. One thing’s for sure, the team will be desperate for success in English conditions in the lead-up to the Ashes.
The team possesses the artillery required to be successful in English conditions. A strong combination of aggressive batsmen, quick bowlers and handy all-rounders will make this side a tough nut to crack if they fire to their potential.
The pace and bounce that Mitchell Starc will extract from the pitches in England’s early summer will make it difficult for the opposition to achieve a solid start. If the top order manages to see off the new white ball, then the likes of Shane Watson, David Warner and Clarke will amass totals that are near impregnable.
The biggest weapon, however, that Australia possess is their mindset. They are the double defending champions and know how to win tournaments of this format. The added confidence that they carry into the competition has to stand them in good stead. Let’s not forget that they were written off at the World Twenty20 but reached the final.
Pooled with the hosts, Australia will be playing this clash in front of a very aggressive crowd which could rattle the champions. The hosts will also have the power to ask the grounds men to prepare pitches to their liking.
The main glaring weakness in the Aussie team is the lack of a genuine spinner. The presence of Graeme Swann may tempt England to produce a slow turning wicket when it is time to play the old enemy.
Sri Lanka is the third team in the group with a realistic chance of advancing in the tournament. If they are lucky enough to play Australia on a wicket that offers something for the spinners then they could be in business, but it is highly unlikely this early in the summer.
One to watch
The big left-arm quick, Michell Starc has had success playing county cricket. He has a clear understanding of the conditions and has all the attributes to be devastating in this tournament. His height and pace would keep any batsmen honest, but it is the late swing with the new ball that should cause havoc with the top order batsmen of many teams in this tournament.
Australia have wisely decided to pick their squad according to their strengths. Spin bowling is without doubt a weakness in Australian cricket and for this reason they will either choose an XI without a specialist spinner or will play the spin bowling all-rounder, Adam Voges. This means that unless there is a game that is effectively a dead-rubber or there is an unseasonably dry wicket, Xavier Doherty will not get much time on the park apart from carrying the drinks.
Last Three Tournament Finishes
2004: Losing semi-finalists to England
Australia should progress from the group with the hosts. It is then knock-out cricket, and no side in modern times is better than Australia when the pressure is on. This team has a point to prove after a terrible tour of India and we wouldn’t be surprises if they add another trophy to their collection.
Michael Clarke (captain), George Bailey, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Xavier Doherty, James Faulkner, Phillip Hughes, Mitchell Johnson, Clint McKay, Mitchell Marsh, Glen Maxwell, Mitchell Starc, Adam Voges, Matthew Wade, David Warner, Shane Watson.
8 June: v England, Birmingham
12 June: v New Zealand, Birmingham
17 June: v Sri Lanka, London