Cricket’s back. Did you notice? Eng v Aus Preview

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The Aussies are in the UK to take on the Poms in a five-game ODI series starting tonight. It’s cricket’s biggest rivalry, traditional enemies of the great game.

But did you even notice it was on?

There’s a range of reasons why this usually hyped series has been shoved under the carpet. Not least with the World Cup kicking off just 24 hours later, and also that it’s nestled in the halfway point of the AFL and NRL seasons, and an exciting series between the Wallabies and Ireland. Oh, and the fact that it’s winter. Cricket in June? The game may as well be as foreign as it is to Arsenal’s David Ospina.

But perhaps the biggest reason why the excitement levels are low is that this is a transitional stage of Australian cricket. After a few unfortunate events in South Africa a couple of months ago that we never want to speak of again, we re-launch tonight.  Australian Cricket 2.0, for the marketeers. And this is where things could get tough. For starters there’s no Smith and Warner, who have scored approximately 96.4% of our runs in the last four years. And, through injuries, there’s no Starc, Hazlewood or Cummins. Kane Richardson (15 ODI caps) is our most experienced seamer. Darcy Short will open the batting, and Marcus Stoinis is likely to move to number three, with Aaron Finch (who has opened the batting in all 88 of his ODIs) allegedly moving to the middle-order. Ashton Agar will play a pivotal role, and the burly Michael Neser could debut this series. Wholesale changes, if you will.

New coach Justin Langer has said his side will have a much clearer understanding of where the infamous ‘line’ sits. His idea is that the word ‘sledging’ has taken on negative connotations, and isn’t actually a bad thing. All well and good. However, in a pre-series press conference, he then went on a weird anecdotal tangent about how he sledges his daughter, mother and father. Presumably also for the ‘bants’.

Speaking of banter, spare a thought for the Aussie boys, who will have to put up with inane, insufferable jokes about the ball-tampering scandal from overweight, middle-aged Englishmen in the comings weeks. In the warm-up game against Sussex, the crowd was heard chanting ‘if you love sandpaper clap your hands’. Sharp stuff. It’s not that we don’t deserve it, we absolutely do. It’s just it’s so predictably vanilla, like this absolute pelter from the Barmy Army:

On to form, and the odds of an England series win were seriously short about a fortnight ago, but a recent loss to Scotland (LOL) and injuries to key-men Ben Stokes and Chris Woakes bring the ledger slightly more even. We say ‘even’ – they’re still a heavily-favoured $1.30 to take the series, and $1.58 to win Wednesday night’s opening encounter. The last time Australia toured the UK for an ODI series (in 2015), it came away with a 3-2 win. However, it’s only a few months since England proved far too good against the Aussies and won convincingly (4-1) on our shores.

Stoinis could prove the key man for the Aussies this series, and after a century in the warm-up win against Sussex, he will be vital if moved to number three. If you fancy him and Australia getting off to the perfect start at The Oval, an Aussie win/Stoinis top team run scorer bet is paying $11.

What do you think?