Niall O’Brien: Australia can take advantage of England’s all-out attack

The pressure is all on England now after their Friday flop. Can Australia take advantage to push the hosts and favourites to the brink?

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It was an unpredictable win. I don’t think anyone gave Sri Lanka much of a chance, but it’s thrown the World Cup wide open. England came in with a lot of confidence, playing well, and were excellent with the ball, restricting Sri Lanka to 241. They’d have expected to chase that down given their form.

It was very similar to when they lost to Pakistan in the Champions Trophy semi-final a couple of years ago – a very slow wicket making it difficult to score, and England didn’t have a plan B or C to fall back on.

It’s Australia, India and New Zealand left for them. That’s probably their three toughest games of the group stage too. All three will want England out of the competition before the semi-finals. They’d much rather face a Bangladesh or Sri Lanka in the knock-out stage if possible.

If England lose the next two they could be gone if other results go against them, and if they lose to Australia they will be looking over their shoulder.

But I still think one win should get them through. They’ve still plenty in the tank.

When Root and Morgan were together they were in control, but the captain was taken out by a spectacular caught and bowled effort from Udana, and Root was unfortunate to get caught down the legside off Malinga, who was sensational taking four wickets.

LEEDS, ENGLAND – JUNE 21: Moeen Ali of England walks off after being dismissed off the bowling of Dhananjaya de Silva of Sri Lanka during the Group Stage match of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 between England and Sri Lanka at Headingley on June 21, 2019 in Leeds, England. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)

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England’s slip-up?

Being the home side and favourites comes with some added pressure.

You can see it in the small mistakes they made the other day. Moeen Ali had just hit a six and then was caught at long-off. That was poor batting. He should’ve taken a couple of singles and batted a bit longer with Ben Stokes. If they had played out most of the what was left, they would’ve won the game.

It’s risk-reward though. If he sticks a couple more of those in the stands, England are nearly over the line.

You have to back your players to make those decisions, but sometimes a player just has to take a bit more responsibility when they look at the game situation. If you’re going to play with freedom and flair you’re going to have to accept criticism when it doesn’t go right.

Before the tournament, Ian Bishop asked me how would England play when they come upon a wicket that’s not easy to smash the ball around. I thought they’d play the exact same, aggressive way. We’re seeing that now, but, as Ian said then, it’s not clear that’s the right way to go.

England are just going to attack, attack, attack, and it was their downfall on Friday. Whether they do the same in the coming games, time will tell.

Everyone had this question before the tournament, have England got a slip-up in them? England’ll hope that’s it gone and they can get back to business as usual. But they’re playing all these pressure games and everyone’ll want to knock them out now.

Australia’s David Warner bats in the nets during a training session at Lord’s Cricket Ground in London on June 24, 2019, ahead of their 2019 Cricket World Cup group stage match against England. (Photo by Saeed KHAN / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE (Photo credit should read SAEED KHAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Aussies under the radar

Australia will grow that few inches taller as they walk out at Lords after that shock Sri Lanka win. They’ll be thinking “we can make a real statement here by turning over the hosts and putting them under real pressure.”

It’s become the biggest game of the tournament now. It’s always a big game when they meet, but there’ll be so much tension around the place now.

England will still be missing Jason Roy. That means James Vince gets another chance at the top of the order after missing out again on Friday.

Their plan would’ve obviously been to beat Sri Lanka – they kept their strongest team against them – and that should’ve secured them in the semi-final places. Then they could’ve rotated some players. They won’t be able to do that now. They’ll have to go for broke in these three games.

RICKMANSWORTH, ENGLAND – JUNE 23: Steve Smith of Australia (L) throws a ball during an Australia Nets session at Merchant Taylor’s School on June 23, 2019 in Rickmansworth, England. (Photo by Steve Bardens/Getty Images)

You can bet your bottom dollar that the likes of Steven Smith, David Warner, and Mitchell Starc will be on the ball for this match. They’ll know they can heap the pressure on England now, and the media focus will build on them after some disappointments so far.

I’ve been impressed by Australia too. They’re yet to click into top gear but they look like potential winners for sure.

Firstly, they know how to win a World Cup, They’ve won numerous trophies before. That experience of playing tournament cricket counts for a lot because there’s a difference playing a bilateral series against the same opponent to winning a competition like this. Australia have shown they’ve got that down to a T.

They’re not playing edge-of-your-seat stuff, but they are going about their business and getting good scores. They’ve good bowlers and are wonderful in the field too. They know how to get the job done.

That’ll be a big worry for England.

Australia have the bit between their teeth. It could be a very nervy afternoon and I wouldn’t be all that surprised to see the Aussies turn them over.

Steven Smith is playing very nicely at the moment. David Warner’s had all the plaudits recently, but Smith’s going about things the right way. It wouldn’t surprise me if he gets a lot of stick at Lords from the crowd but then he retaliates with a match-winning innings to deepen England’s gloom.

Niall’s Pick of the Punts: Steve Smith Top Match Batsman @ 10/1

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