Fighting-fit England take on the jumpy Aussies in Adelaide

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They say fierce rivalry most often occurs between old friends, couple that with a questionable obsession over a pot of ashes and the inability to agree on a name for yeast extract, England and Australia are as similar as they are different — and no more so than on the cricket pitch.

Friday 26th January sees the fourth round of the One Day International series played between England and Australia at the Adelaide Oval, and with strong performances by the English team in previous rounds hanging over the Aussies the pressure sure is on.

Although still without Ben Stokes for the foreseeable future, the decision to split the captaincy is paying off. Eoin Morgan’s no-nonsense, calm and optimistic influence having transformed the performance of the team, with pundits predicting them going 4–0 up at the Oval on Friday.

As England soaks up the glory and goes into Friday’s match with the confidence that winning 18 out of your last 20 games gives you, the Aussie team’s shambolic performance so far is beginning to turn to talk of making the necessary improvements for the coming year. Maybe a sign of how the inevitable often dictates its own ending, especially after having lost 10 out of their last 11 ODIs.

To the Australians’ credit they have shown signs of strong play, but are plagued by twitchy selection and prematurely discarded tactics, along with a general inconsistency that doesn’t do them any favours at all. The replacement of high-scoring Aaron Finch with Travis Head ahead of Friday’s game may also have a negative effect on the team, even if just psychologically.

Australian captain Steve Smith is beginning to look a little battered, having considered emulating England’s strategy, the toll of losses and even an Ashes win is shown up by his counterpart’s vitality. Morgan has a glow about him, he’s blooming, rested and ready.

The pommies and the aussies go back a fair way, and so does their mutual love of cricket. Having played their first ODI together on 5th January 1971, 94 years after their first ever test match in 1877, the bond has formed mainly around the curious Ashes test match which began in 1882 after British newspaper The Sporting Times declared the game dead following an Australian win. It’s believed a wooden ball was cremated and the ashes taken to Australia and presented back to England after a series of wins, since which time the two countries have fought over the coveted Urn that contains the fated ‘game’.

Cricket is a slow burning game (if you’ll pardon the ill-timed pun), and as such so is the relationship between these two nations. It’ll take more than a kicking by each other to break the bond. We’ll always help each other to their feet after a scuffle; it couldn’t be any other way. There’s every chance we may see something like this play out on Friday.

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