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Why England are favourites for ODI series despite Ashes thrashing

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England's Eoin Morgan plays a shot against Australia in the 2017 Champions Trophy
Australia v England, first ODI
Venue: Melbourne Cricket Ground Date: 14 January Time: 03:20 GMT
Coverage: Ball-by-ball Test Match Special commentary on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra, Radio 4 LW, BBC Sport website and app. Live text commentaries on the BBC Sport website and app.

Thrashed in the Ashes and now facing the world champions on their home turf, England’s prospects in the one-day series in Australia may appear bleak.

But England’s 50-over side have plenty of reasons to believe they can succeed where their Test counterparts failed when the five-match one-day series starts in Melbourne at 03:20 GMT on Sunday.

BBC Sport looks at why England can be considered favourites to win the series less than two years on from their miserable World Cup showing.

‘I expect England to win 3-2’

Of the 16 players in England’s squad, seven were involved in the Ashes, while only four played all five Tests.

The in-form Dawid Malan is the only member of the squad yet to play an ODI, with those coming in mostly experienced one-day players, including captain Eoin Morgan and wicketkeeper Jos Buttler, who will win his 100th cap at the MCG.

“Australia is a tough place to be, especially when you’re losing, but the fresh faces will provide an added impetus and do the world of good for England,” former England batsman James Taylor told BBC Sport.

“The one-day side is very settled, with experienced individuals playing the way they want to play.”

Sam Billings, Jason Roy, David Willey and Buttler have been playing in Australia’s Big Bash T20 competition, while Morgan, Alex Hales, Liam Plunkett and Adil Rashid took part in the inaugural T10 League in the United Arab Emirates last month.

“Everyone has been playing plenty of cricket so it won’t be a case of England being rusty. I expect England to win the series 3-2,” said Taylor, who will be part of the Test Match Special commentary team.

England’s one-day bowling attack also offers more variety than the one that took only 58 wickets in five Ashes Tests, with Plunkett and Wood providing pace, Willey a left-arm option and leg-spinner Rashid.

England squad: Eoin Morgan (capt), Moeen Ali, Jonny Bairstow, Jake Ball, Sam Billings, Jos Buttler, Tom Curran, Alex Hales, Dawid Malan, Liam Plunkett, Adil Rashid, Joe Root, Jason Roy, David Willey, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood.

Batting big

England’s development into a one-day force after their dismal group-stage exit from the 2015 World Cup has been based largely on a talented batting line-up prepared to attack throughout the innings.

In 53 matches since the end of the World Cup, England have scored 300 or more 24 times, including 18 out of 27 matches when they batted first. During the same period, Australia reached 300 12 times in 50 matches, including 10 out of 23 matches batting first.

“Originally, England probably played with too much freedom and not enough nous, but now they are so much more experienced as a group and as individuals that they are being far more consistent than they ever have been,” said Taylor, who averaged 42 in 27 ODIs.

England’s batsmen have made 28 centuries since the World Cup, compared to Australia’s 21, although David Warner is the leading centurion on either side with 10, while Joe Root leads England with six.

Taylor said he would not be surprised if England rest Root for the first two games after the Test captain retired ill with a viral illness on the final day of the fifth Test.

However, unlike the Test team, where top and middle-order positions are still unsettled, the one-day side have “plenty of options” to fill the batting slots, according to Taylor.

Roy and Jonny Bairstow look set to continue opening after two century stands in their first two games together against West Indies in September, with Alex Hales dropping to three.

Australia v England ODI schedule
14 Jan: 1st ODI, Melbourne, 03:20 GMT
19 Jan: 2nd ODI, Brisbane, 04:20
21 Jan: 3rd ODI, Sydney, 03:20
26 Jan: 4th ODI, Adelaide, 03:50 GMT
28 Jan: 5th ODI, Perth (Perth Stadium), 06:20 GMT

No Stokes, less problem

During the Ashes, England were unbalanced by the absence of all-rounder Ben Stokes, who remains unavailable while he waits to find out if he will be charged after being arrested on suspicion of causing actual bodily harm outside a Bristol nightclub in September.

But Taylor says the one-day side are better placed than the Test team to cope without Stokes, who was replaced in the squad by Malan, England’s leading run-scorer in the Ashes.

“You can’t replace Ben Stokes, but you can go some way to filling his spot with the variety England have got in their limited-overs set-up,” said Taylor.

Hales is free to play again after being cleared over his involvement in the Stokes incident.

Taylor expects Moeen Ali to have “more of an impact” in the one-day series, following a torrid Ashes with bat and ball. The all-rounder claimed 2-28 from 10 overs in the warm-up victory over a Cricket Australia XI this week.

Although Stokes would have batted in the middle order, Chris Woakes, Willey, Plunkett and Rashid are all capable of providing crucial runs down the order.

The importance of Bayliss

England coach Trevor Bayliss was criticised following another Test series defeat, but this series provides a timely opportunity for England’s one-day side to continue the progress made during his time in charge.

Since the Australian took over in May 2015, England have won nine of their 12 one-day series, with their three defeats – against Australia at home and South Africa and India away – coming by only one game.

Bayliss has said since the Ashes that he will stand down when his contract expires in September 2019.

“England have got the right individuals in the side – they’ve got the right ethos and coaches behind it to allow the players to play with freedom,” said Taylor, who played under Bayliss before he was forced to retire with a heart condition in 2016.

“Trevor Bayliss doesn’t say a lot, but what he does say, everybody listens to and takes on board.

“They are a seriously talented bunch and he lets them go out and play. As does Paul Farbrace – he’s very positive and they are a good combination.”

Record since 2015 World Cup
Australia England
Played 50 53
Won 26 34
Lost 21 15
Tied 0 1
No result 3 3
Completed matches only

Australia’s ‘astonishing’ squad selection

From an Australia perspective, the build-up to the series has been dominated by debate over a player not in the team.

All-rounder Glenn Maxwell was dropped when the original squad was announced, with captain Steve Smith questioning the World Cup-winner’s training and consistency.

Maxwell, who averages 32 with the bat and almost 39 with the ball, was again overlooked for 34-year-old Cameron White when Chris Lynn was forced out through injury.

“I cannot believe Glenn Maxwell is not in this Australia squad,” said Taylor. “It is astonishing – he would be my first player on the team sheet. How they haven’t got him in and how Steve Smith said what he said, it is extraordinary.

“England have got to find a way to stop Smith scoring, let alone get him out, while David Warner and Aaron Finch are world-class top-order batsmen, and they’ve got Mitch Starc and Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood in form.”

Australia celebrate winning the 2015 World Cup

The pace trio of Starc, Cummins and Hazlewood, who took 66 wickets between them in the Ashes, are likely to provide England’s sternest test.

Since the World Cup, Australia have bowled sides out in 21 of their 50 matches, compared to 17 in 53 for Morgan’s side.

Yet there has been little correlation between the results of recent Ashes series down under and the subsequent one-day series.

In 2006-07, England were whitewashed 5-0 but went on to win the tri-series involving Australia and New Zealand.

Despite winning the 2010-11 Ashes 3-1, England were thrashed 6-1 in the ODIs, although the ‘Pominshambles’ team of 2013-14 that lost 5-0 were then beaten 4-1 in the one-day series.

Australia: Steve Smith (capt), Pat Cummins, Aaron Finch, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Mitchell Marsh, Tim Paine (wk), Jhye Richardson, Mitchell Starc, Marcus Stoinis, David Warner, Cameron White, Andrew Tye, Adam Zampa.

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