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Cricket news - England's chance to end challenging summer with home record in tow

Australia suffered a second inexplicable collapse when presented with a chance to seal the ODI series.

Australia suffered a second inexplicable collapse when presented with a chance to seal the ODI series.

For someone who starts each day of his life with meditation and thrives on not showing much emotion on or around a cricket field, Justin Langer has the most ice-cold, bone-chilling glare in world cricket. And you just want to look away. It doesn't surface too often though and is not like a reaction for every time his team is losing or trailing during a match. It's generally reserved for when the Australians have somehow found a way to surrender a massive advantage or just found a way to lose a seemingly unlosable match. Like they did at Old Trafford on Sunday to allow England to claw their way back into the ODI series.

There is no other way after all to refer to the visitors' slip-up from 144/2 while chasing 232, albeit on a wearing pitch, than deeming it inexplicable. Not surprisingly, as the camera panned towards the Australian dressing-room with their score reading 175/8, there it was - the "Langer look of death". And it only got sterner and even more intimidating as Alex Carey's lone battle inevitably succumbed to the situation and England finished with a 24-run win. Just like that, Australia had blown away a rather straightforward opportunity to hand the world champions their first home series defeat in five years.

They will get another chance however on Wednesday (September 16) in the final international game of the most unique English summer in history. We'll be back in Manchester for hopefully the last time ever with no crowds in the stands, and the series will almost aptly be on the line. For some in the English camp, it'll also be the end of the bubble life for a few months. For a majority of them and all their Australian counterparts though, there'll be many more bubbles to go before they finally head to their respective homes.

In some ways, Eoin Morgan & Co's extraordinary jailbreak on Sunday was symbolic of the summer of cricket itself that England and the ECB have pulled off amidst the pandemic. Not many gave them a chance to produce a full season of international cricket forget one with a full assortment of Tests, ODIs and T20Is against four separate teams. It's not always been straight-forward but the English have ended up providing a blueprint to the cricket world on playing hosts during a health crisis.

A win on Wednesday would cap off what has also been a very successful summer on the field and also extend their unbeaten run on home soil. And it's never a bad time for an England team to beat Australia either.

For the visitors, it was their second indescribable collapse of the tour. They'd thrown away a grand position in the first T20I to take an early lead in that series, and now they've made a bigger mess of sealing the ODI series. The top-heavy nature of their batting make-up in white-ball cricket isn't lost on Langer either. And he did speak about the desperate need to find batsmen who can finish off an innings, especially in a run-chase scenario.

"What do you look for? Problem solving. I think about the (MS) Dhonis and the (Mike) Husseys and the (Michael) Bevans, Jos Buttlers, the guys who finish it well, are great problem solvers, and they've got real confidence in their ability to, over and over, solve the issues which come up, whether you're chasing big scores, small scores, on different wickets, spinning wickets, wickets that are staying a bit up down. that's what we're looking for in the middle order, guys who are able to solve problems and get the job done," he said on Tuesday (September 15).

It was at Old Trafford that Langer got his smile back last year when the Aussies overcame the heartbreak of Headingley, where their coach really did lose his serenity completely, to retain the Ashes. He is likely to have the man he considers the best "problem-solver" in cricket back for the decider. And like he did in Manchester 12 months back, maybe it'll be the returning Steve Smith again who wipes Langer's glare away.

When: Wednesday, September 16, 2020. 13:00 Local Time, 17:30 IST

Where: Emirates Old Trafford, Manchester

What to expect: Old Trafford, like the Ageas Bowl, has had to deal with an unprecedented workload over the last three months and can't be blamed for some of its pitches breaking down or up with fatigue. Wednesday's contest is expected to be played on a fresh pitch though which could make for even more interesting viewing as it might give the home team a chance to pull the curtains on a remarkable summer with a bang, like has been their brand of ODI cricket generally as the No.1 team in the world.

Team News

England

The Curran brothers made their way in for the second ODI and like they've known to do, made immediate impressions on England's performance. But a fresh pitch, which will have extra and more predictable bounce, could force one of them out in favour of Mark Wood. Moeen Ali is always a possibility, considering they might need some added firepower in the batting on a truer pitch.

Possible XI: Jason Roy, Jonny Bairstow, Joe Root, Eoin Morgan (c), Jos Buttler (wk), Sam Billings, Sam Curran/Moeen Ali/Mark Wood, Chris Woakes, Tom Curran, Adil Rashid, Jofra Archer

Australia

Smith's return would be the only expected change for the Australians. For the visitors, it's less a case of who is playing than where they're playing in the batting order. The bowlers have been sensational so far, including Mitchell Marsh in the middle overs. But the lack of firepower in the middle to late order could well result in some swaps, especially if the top three provide the kind of foundation we've come to expect from them.

Possible XI: Aaron Finch (c), David Warner, Steve Smith, Marnus Labuschange, Glenn Maxwell, Mitchell Marsh, Alex Carey (wk), Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Adam Zampa

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