Just four days after the T20 World Cup’s conclusion, Australia is back in action on Thursday, taking on old enemy England in the first ODI.
For Australia, it will be the first ODI of the post-Aaron Finch era, with Pat Cummins to lead the side and Travis Head to open the batting.
Meanwhile, Australia will need to fill a Glenn Maxwell-shaped hole after a freak accident ruled him out of the series.
So will there be a seamless transition for Australia after Finch? And who replaces Maxwell?
This and more in our series Burning Questions.
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WILL THERE BE A SEAMLESS FINCH TRANSITION?
That all depends on if Travis Head can hit the ground running in ODI cricket again.
The left-hander will be given the first crack at replacing the retired captain at the top of the order, where he will partner David Warner.
With the next ODI World Cup less than 12 months away, it’s a chance Head won’t want to let slip through his fingers.
There will be plenty of good feeling, however, with Head returning to Australian colours.
For starters, his international career began in the white ball formats in 2016. His debut came in January 2016 at his home ground, the Adelaide Oval, while a year later he made 128 off 137 at the same ground.
His opening partner that day? Warner. The pair put on 284 runs for Australia’s first wicket.
Anything that even marginally represents that sort of dominance in the first ODI at Adelaide Oval will be a step in the right direction for Head, who didn’t play an ODI between November 2018 and March 2022.
As he began to embed himself in Australia’s Test team, he became somewhat pigeonholed as a red ball cricketer and missed the 2019 World Cup.
With Finch gone, however, Head is the logical replacement at the top of the ODI order.
His six ODI appearances this year has seen him average 77.5, including 101 runs off 72 balls as an opener against Pakistan.
Should Head not make the most of the ODI series, then other options might be explored, such as Cameron Green opening the batting, as he did in T20 cricket against India in September.
Head to open batting for Australia | 02:42
WHAT ABOUT FINCH’S LEADERSHIP?
The second component to Finch’s succession is the captaincy, which will be assumed by Pat Cummins.
There are big shoes to fill.
Finch’s batting might’ve made him a man under pressure, but his leadership was rarely ever questioned.
He was a strong captain with an astute cricket mind rain that made him one of the best white ball leaders Australia has ever had.
Cummins will take the reins from here — and it should be a relatively soft landing given he’s already been Test captain for almost a year.
The concerns about having a fast bowler as the team’s captain are hardly concerns at all now with Cummins showing a willingness to lean on others.
The fact Australia will boast several senior figures, such as Warner and Smith, only makes Cummins’ job that bit easier.
Nonetheless, there will be plenty of attention on how Cummins performs as ODI captain with another World Cup so close.
He will be eager to vindicate Cricket Australia’s decision to give him the role with wins, especially after Warner made his desire to take the captaincy clear.
Cummins’ performance as Test captain, however, has been impressive and offers no obvious reason to be concerned about his ability to lead in the ODI arena, too.
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WHO REPLACES MAXWELL?
In case you’re still playing catch-up, Maxwell will miss this series — and months more — after he broke his leg while celebrating a friend’s 50th birthday.
As such, there’s a gaping hole in the middle-order that needs to be filled.
It’s unclear what path Australia will go down to replace Maxwell, and whether any other members of the T20 World Cup are in need of further rest.
Assuming they aren’t, and selectors intend on picking a full strength XI, then it appears that there are only three spots available for Mitch Marsh, Marcus Stoinis, Cameron Green, and Marnus Labuschagne.
With Stoinis and Marsh locks in T20 cricket, Labuschagne could be vulnerable. Marsh could bat at No.4, as he typically does in T20s, and Green slide in at either No.5 or No.6 alongside Stoinis.
This would give Australia extra fire power to cover the loss of Maxwell without sacrificing a bowling option. Furthermore, Head is more than capable of offering a few overs of off spin to help cover the loss of Maxwell. Labuschagne’s part-time leg spin, meanwhile, is an extra risky option in white ball cricket that could prove expensive.
Should selectors prefer Labuschagne, who played three ODIs against New Zealand in September, then one of three fast-bowling all-rounders Stoinis, Marsh or Green would likely sit out.
Maxwell suffers freak leg facture | 00:37
Stoinis has played the most cricket of the trio recently and could be due for a rest, although he’s more likely to be used as a bowling option than Marsh.
The other consideration is that selectors will want to prioritise the Test summer for Green, and may not be willing to risk him in an ODI series so close to the first Test.
Who gets the nod is anyone’s guess at this stage.
Elsewhere, Head and Warner will open with Steve Smith at No.3, Alex Carey will wear the gloves, while Cummins is expected to line up alongside Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Adam Zampa, with Ashton Agar and Sean Abbott the reserves.
HOW HUNGOVER WILL ENGLAND BE?
Not literally, of course. Although, maybe for some players?
It’s a nightmare scenario for England having to front up for an ODI series four days after it won the T20 World Cup.
Even England captain Jos Buttler wasn’t going to start selling everyone a lie about his team’s enthusiasm.
“It’s going to be a challenge,” Buttler said.
“There’s no point saying all the right things, that we’ll be at our best.”
A total of 11 players in England’s squad are still in celebration mode after the World Cup and will be asked to refocus for the first ODI on Thursday.
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True that the series will mean more to Australia, eager to make up for its disappointing campaign, but there are England players with futures somewhat on the line.
James Vince, for example, has earnt a call-up and will need to pile on the runs if he’s to stand any chance of an elongated run in England colours.
The same could be said for Jason Roy who was snubbed from England’s T20 squad, but was picked for the ODIs.
With Jonny Bairstow still to return from injury, Alex Hales back in the ODI mix after a dominant T20 World Cup, and Joe Root preparing for a Test series, this is a rare lifeline for Vince and Roy.
Meanwhile, England’s upcoming Test series against Pakistan also means Liam Livingstone and Harry Brook are missing when they otherwise would’ve been picked. That will present crucial opportunities in England’s middle-order.
Furthermore, this is a series between traditional rivals Australia and England after all. Poor timing aside, these are two teams that need little extra motivation to go after each other.
Australia: Pat Cummins (c), Sean Abbott, Ashton Agar, Alex Carey, Cameron Green, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Marnus Labuschagne, Mitchell Marsh, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Marcus Stoinis, David Warner, Adam Zampa
England: Jos Buttler (c), Moeen Ali, Sam Billings, Sam Curran, Liam Dawson, Chris Jordan, Dawid Malan, Adil Rashid, Jason Roy, Phil Salt, Olly Stone, James Vince, David Willey, Chris Woakes, Luke Wood
FIXTURES (times AEDT):
First ODI: Thursday November 17, 2.20pm, Adelaide Oval
Second ODI: Saturday November 19, 2.20pm, SCG
Third ODI: Tuesday November 22, 2.20pm