England v Australia
Friday 4 September 18:00
TV: live on Sky Sports
England will feel they are in decent nick ahead of a eagerly-anticipated clash with the old enemy. They know exactly the type of T20 side they want to be: hyper aggressive.
It's a redux of their ODI World Cup-winning team. They have an embarrassment of riches with the bat and a propensity to be expensive with the ball. Pakistan twice got hold of them in the field but only once - and it was mighty close - could they stem the flow of runs in the chase.
Jos Buttler will return to open the batting with Jonny Bairstow meaning England will have a decision to make about Dawid Malan or Tom Banton at No 3. Jofra Archer and Mark Wood will return to add top-quality pace. There is no Ben Stokes or Joe Root, of course.
Possible XI Bairstow, Buttler, Malan, Morgan, Moeen, Billings, S Curran, Jordan, Rashid, Archer, Wood
Australia are at full-strength with their big guns itching to get back into the action post-lockdown. Still, the T20 series could well serve Australia's IPL-bound players best as they arrive seriously undercooked.
David Warner and Aaron Finch will reprise their impressive opening partnership but there are doubts about whether the Aussies are gung-ho enough with the bat. We are yet to be convinced Steve Smith should be batting ahead of Glenn Maxwell while there are also worries about their death hitting ability. In short, the Warner-Finch axis is crucial.
They are tasty with the ball, though. Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc will test the home team's attacking mentality
Possible XI Warner, Finch, Smith, Maxwell, M Marsh, A Carey, Agar, Cummins, Starc, Zampa, Richardson
2018 Eng 221-5 (Buttler 61) defended Aus 193 (Finch 84, Ra-shid 3-27)
Aus 138-3 (Maxwell 39, Jordan 2-26) chased Eng (Buttler 46, K Richardson 3-33)
Aus 161-5 (Maxwell 103*) chased Eng 155-9 (Malan 50, Maxwell 3-10)
Overall Eng 6 Aus 9
Australia have at least got used to the Ageas Bowl with warm-up matches. Aaron Finch has said the wicket has good pace. This should suit the strokemakers There have been only five T20 internationals at the Rose Bowl. The last was in 2017 with England losing only one wicket in a chase of 143.
The scores from the last two year's domestic T20 are more relevant, then. With 1-2 denoting match won by the team batting first or second (most recent first) they read: 153-2/139-tie/202-1/128-1/145-2/144-2/129-2/139-1/184-1/158-2/168-1. That is an average of 153. There is no toss bias.
Edge for England
England are 1.845/6 with Australia 2.166/5. Those odds seem fair for two reasons.
Firstly, England are in a rhythm. The two matches played against Pakistan, despite the 1-1 scoreline, are perfect preparation. They are also used to not playing in front of crowds.
The Aussies are not. They are coming in cold in every aspect of post-lockdown sport. England's players are used to the bubble, Australia's are finding their way.
Secondly, England's aggression exposes Australia's lack of it. Until Australia can throw caution to the wind (and this goes for ODI, too) they are likely to come off second-best.
We would throw in a caveat for the toss. We would want England chasing and can probably get something juicer with bowlers often wayward. Their style suits fielding first while Australia are inexperienced at knowing what makes a good score having had limited opportunities in doing so in the last two years. No rain is forecast.
To the Max
From the head-to-heads Buttler and Maxwell are likely to see stiff support for respective top-bat honours. Buttler gets a 5/2 quote and Maxwell 6/1. Maxwell's chunky because of the doubts about getting enough time. Warner and Finch have also dominated this market and get quotes of 11/4 and 3/1 respectively.