MANCHESTER - The controversial dismissal of Ben Stokes overshadowed what was another commanding display from world champions Australia at Lord’s on Saturday.

They have a 2-0 lead in the One-Day International series going in to the third game at Old Trafford on Tuesday. Whatever your opinion about the Stokes incident, what it should not do is sugar-coat a poor performance from England. Where they may have felt they should have won the first ODI, there can be no doubting that they were outplayed at Lord’s.

It is early days for Eoin Morgan’s side so any criticism should be measured. Perhaps a long domestic season has worn them down as there is a distinct lack of the vibrancy evident in the ODI series against New Zealand earlier in the summer. There will be some enforced changes for both teams in Manchester.

As suggested in the preview of the Lord’s game, Jos Buttler has been rested for England to be replaced by Jonny Bairstow. Sam Billings is already in the squad but is not yet considered ready to take the gloves at international level.

Australia will be missing three players from Lord’s: David Warner fractured his thumb after being hit by Steven Finn’s second ball; Shane Watson pulled a calf muscle while batting; and Nathan Coulter-Nile injured a hamstring late on. All three players are heading home to Australia. These absences will hurt Australia, particularly in the batting department. They have called up batsmen Aaron Finch and Peter Handscomb and all-rounder John Hastings, all three of whom are playing county cricket at present.

Match starts at 6:00 PM

Finch would have been in the original squad but was left out to recover from an injury. For England, the most pressing concern is the bowling attack, which has conceded over 300 in both games. Although Liam Plunkett replaced Mark Wood at Lord’s, an attack containing four right-arm seamers (Finn, Plunkett, Chris Woakes and Stokes) looks too predictable.

Left armers David Willey or Reece Topley will come in to serious consideration at Old Trafford. In the batting department, Eoin Morgan looks in prime form after a fine 85 at Lord’s but once again several players made starts but could not go on to a commanding score. James Taylor and Jason Roy made 43 and 31 respectively but got out at crucial times, much as they both did in the first game.

It also is concerning how the lower middle order collapsed in much the same way as they did in Southampton. The introduction of Bairstow, unlucky to miss out on the original squad, should help but Stokes needs some runs. The inclusion of Willey would provide more batting ballast down the order. The three absences will disrupt Australia as they look to win the series in Manchester.

All three of the missing players have made important contributions but in Finch, Australia’s T20 captain, they have a ready made replacement for Warner. Whether Steven Smith will regret his decision not to recall Stokes after his dismissal for obstructing the field is debatable but Morgan was adamant that he would have done so if the shoe had been on the other foot. Regardless, Smith is looking in excellent touch, top scoring at Lord’s with 70 but the key to Australia’s two wins has been the contribution from the middle order.

Whereas England’s lower middle order has been blow away twice, Australia’s is performing rather well with Mitchell Marsh scoring 64 from 31 balls from number eight to propel Australia past 300 on Saturday. There were also decent contributions from Glenn Maxwell and Watson to go with Matthew Wade’s electric knock in the first ODI.

It will be interesting to see who Australia replace Watson with. It is likely that either Western Australia all-rounder Marcus Stonis will make his ODI debut or left-arm spinner Ashton Agar will play with Marsh and Wade moving up the order. Perhaps Agar is the more likely, with Old Trafford renowned for being a good place to bowl spin. In the seam department, James Pattinson will slot in to replace Coulter-Nile and will add to the pace barrage that England will face on the quickest wicket in the country.

Together with Pat Cummins, who took four England wickets at Lord’s, and Mitchell Starc it is an attack with searing pace and wicket taking ability.


ENGLAND: Jason Roy, Alex Hales, James Taylor, Eoin Morgan (captain), Ben Stokes, Jonny Bairstow, Moeen Ali, David Willey, Adil Rashid, Liam Plunkett, Steven Finn.

AUSTRALIA: Aaron Finch, Joe Burns, Steven Smith (captain), George Bailey, Glenn Maxwell, Mitchell Marsh, Matthew Wade, Ashton Agar, Mitchell Starc, Patrick Cummins, James Pattinson.