x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

Champions Trophy: England and Australia not deterred by the past

Warm-up games do not matter on the day of action, says stand-in captain George Bailey, and Alistair Cook agrees.

Under the cosh, George Bailey, right, and coach Mickey Arthur have their thinking caps on during a nets session at Edgbaston. Michael Steele / Getty Images
Under the cosh, George Bailey, right, and coach Mickey Arthur have their thinking caps on during a nets session at Edgbaston. Michael Steele / Getty Images

England are firm favourites to win today's game against Australia even before a ball has been bowled, and it is not just because they are the hosts in their first Group B match of the tournament, at Birmingham.

Australia struggled in the two warm-up games in the build-up to the event, including an embarrassing collapse for just 65 runs against India.

The side are inexperienced and suffered a further setback when Michael Clarke, the injured captain, was ruled out for the game. His chronic back problems are a major concern for Australia, with the Ashes series to follow.

With just three matches under his belt as captain in a 21-game career, George Bailey will stand in for Clarke, but he is not fussing over the problems at hand.

"It's not an ideal preparation, to get bowled out for 65," Bailey conceded. "But we'll start on zero tomorrow, and they'll start on zero tomorrow.

"How [England] prepare or how they take that is completely up to them."

Ashley Giles, the England coach, insisted on Thursday that he and his team would not be laughing at Australia's expense, but Bailey reiterated: "They can if they want. … I'm not really fussed.

"But what a great opportunity for us to prove a lot of people wrong. What a way to galvanise a side.

"People will have their opinions, and that's fine. Everyone's entitled to them, and a lot of them are probably well-thought-out opinions, but at the end of the day it's how you perform in the games.

"You can't completely disregard the 65, because you never want to have that in a practice game - in any game.

"We're hoping that certainly doesn't happen tomorrow."

His counterpart, Alistair Cook, also said he did not want to read too much into warm-up games, though he conceded Clarke's loss was a big one. "They have got a good squad and obviously some fine replacements, so I don't think it's not all doom and gloom for them, but losing your captain is tough," Cook said.

On his own captaincy, Bailey said: "I'm not under any more pressure than any other captain.

"First and foremost, my role is to score runs in that middle order for us. If I can do that, our players have played enough cricket to know the basics of the game.

"I'm not going to do anything as a captain that's going to revolutionise the game. It's all their skills. … I'm just in charge of hoping the coin lands the right way, really.

"Our best is still as good as anyone else in the world. If we play our best cricket, I've got no doubt we can win the tournament - and we probably will win the tournament. But if we don't play our best - and that's been the issue - the gap between our best and our worst performances has probably grown."

Australia may take solace from the fact that England's winning streak of eight games at home was interrupted by New Zealand, who clinched a three-game series 2-1 in the past two weeks. "In the ideal world, we'd have beaten New Zealand in that series," Cook said.

"That would have been ideal preparations, so we haven't been quite on the money that way.

"We haven't been too far off playing close to our potential, but we've let ourselves down in certain areas. So that is a challenge for training today and then tomorrow as well. We need to be playing close to our potential to beat Australia."

England have yet to win a major one-day championship, and this will be the last staging of the Champions Trophy.

Cook's form has been of concern in the format. He did not convert his starts against New Zealand, and was out for naught in the third one-day game.

Jonathan Trott, who scored a century in the second, along with Jos Buttler, Ian Bell and Eoin Morgan are in good touch, though, as the middle order and a good bowling attack augurs well for England.

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