SOUTHAMPTON-Australia return to international cricket after a gap of five months as they face England in the first of the three Twenty20 Internationals on Friday, 4 September.

Pakistan’s impressive performance in the final T20I earlier this week might have forced England to settle for a series draw but the hosts have been on a roll in the format last couple of years. Against their arch-rivals Australia, they will field a strong squad, bringing back Jofra Archer and Jos Buttler, who were rested against Pakistan. The bowling attack looks solid with the inclusion of Mark Wood and Sam Curran. With Jason Roy still on the sidelines with an injury, 21-year-old Tom Banton, who put up an impressive showing against Pakistan, has a good chance of featuring in the playing XI.

If the intra-squad practice matches are anything to go by, a break of five months from international cricket has done nothing to diminish Australia’s hunger to perform. The visitors have a problem of plenty. Glenn Maxwell, Marnus Labuschagne, Alex Carey all got hundreds in the practice games. Marcus Stoinis and Aaron Finch have looked good too and with the dangerous David Warner and Steve Smith the batting unit looks formidable. Both the pace and the spin attack look settled. They have also included the uncapped Riley Meredith in the squad. The 24-year-old fast bowler picked up two wickets, including the prized scalp of Steve Smith in the 50-over warm-up game.

The two teams last faced each other in T20Is in a one-off encounter in June 2018, which England won by 28 runs after putting up a massive score of 221/5. They haven’t met each other in the shortest format since but each team’s current form puts them on even ground. Australia have won nine out of their last 11 T20Is and would be itching to get back on the international circuit after a long gap. England too have been doing well and have not lost a single T20I series out of their last six.

England bowler Mark Wood said: “It’s always good when you play for England, don’t get us wrong, but it is an extra incentive when you play Australia, when you play the biggest rivals. They are desperate to beat you, you’re desperate to beat them. And it doesn’t matter if it’s the Ashes, white-ball, T20. Doesn’t matter what it is, we’ll be desperate to beat them.” 

Australia captain Aaron Finch said: “Having got to No.1 in the world in T20 cricket we want to stay there and keep improving on our game. We feel our game plan has been really solid for quite a while and we’re really comfortable how that looks for various conditions and opponents.”