23/04/2024

Travis Head and Australia ticked a big early box as Australia completed a clean sweep of England at the MCG. Image: cricket.com.au

Australia and Travis Head have ticked a big box for the national team as the preparations start ahead of the 50-over world cup next year in India.

The home side wrapped up the series at the MCG on Tuesday afternoon with a 221-run win via the DLS method on a gloomy Melbourne day. With the grandstands virtually empty with only 10,406 people coming through the gates, and with more questions asked about the life and profitability of limited overs cricket in Australia, the records just kept tumbling at the MCG.

The Australian victory was set up by their opening pair David Warner and Travis Head, who posted the highest-ever partnership in an ODI at the MCG, On their way to posting 5/355 after being sent into bat first.

Head, with an international century previously at the MCG against New Zealand on Boxing Day 2019, almost pulled out of the game due to back spasms and illness which prevented him from fielding in the second innings but pushed through to bring up his second ODI century of the year off 93 deliveries.

David Warner also got to reprise his famous customary leap, posting his first international century since 14 January 2020. making 106 off 102 balls. His 19th in One-Day cricket.

With the next 50-over match not scheduled for Australia till March next year, leaving less than a dozen ODI’s between now and the 50-over World Cup in India in November 2023, one of the big boxes that was under after the retirement of Aaron Finch has seemingly been ticked.

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Head has now opened 18 times for Australia in ODI cricket, a position where he has profited scoring 923 runs at 51.27, nine runs better than his next-best batting position.

After being awarded man of the match after his 152 off 130 deliveries, Head spoke of the opportunity he has come to him this time around with the knowledge of greater opportunities on the horizon.

“It wasn’t the most free-flowing I’d like to be, I obviously gave up a chance and got away with a review as well,” he said on his innings.

“There was a fair bit there in the wicket and I still wanted to be ultra-positive around the scoring opportunities, so it was nice we were able to build a partnership there and go on with it.”

“It will be what it will be,” Head said on whether or not he can parlay the form into a starting World Cup spot in 12 months’ time.

“I have been in that position and watched from the 12 months leading into a World Cup, and missing that was tough because I felt like I was going well and things just didn’t fall my way.

“I’ve (gone) away and played three good years of domestic cricket to get my chance again.

“It’s started well but you can’t hang your hat on it, (I’ve) got to stay relaxed and calm and back my ability.

“I’ve played enough cricket now to know the expectations are for Australia; I still hold a lot of pride in what I’m doing but I’m a lot more relaxed about things.”

Head also heaped praise on his batting partner David Warner.

The pair’s opening stand of 269 is the second-highest one-day international partnership by an Australian pairing, with the pair also owning the number one spot.

The pair have put on 795 runs at a phenomenal average of 113.57 in their seven innings together at the top of Australia’s one-day line-up.

“We (Warner and I) see the game in a similar way,” said Head.

“I think we’ve seen that in the way that we’ve gone out and played in the past and in this series. It’s been a nice partnership, I enjoy batting with him and vice versa, hopefully.

“He’s obviously (an) unbelievable (player), which helps to have the confidence at the other end.

“I’ll take any position that puts me in the Australian cricket team.

“In white-ball cricket, I’d like to bat as high as I possibly can. I know the various opportunities I have got at the top I’ve had some success. I guess the challenge now … is being able to do it consistently for a period of time.”

Olly Stone, England’s pick of the bowlers on the day with 4/85 off his 10 overs would be the one to finally break the opening stand, taking the wicket of Warner who holed out to deep midwicket with David Willey holding onto a good catch. He dismissed Travis Head later in the over, looking to continue the destructive display.

Steve Smith and Mitchell Marsh played important cameos late in the piece as rain interrupted play on more than one occasion and reduced the match to 48 overs per side.

The adjusted target of 364 set for England got off to a rocky start with Malan edging behind early in the third over of the chase off Josh Hazelwood.

Skipper Pat Cummins, back in for this game did the damage early for Australia with two wickets in his opening six-over burst. Cummins finished with 2/25 off his six overs.

Moeen Ali, originally not selected in the XI having been rotated out, was substituted into the England team after Phil Salt was ruled out of the match with concussion after sliding in the outfield attempting to save a boundary. Ali was dropped twice during his innings of 18 off 31 deliveries.

After dropping one chance, Zampa struck twice in two balls to break the back of the batting lineup and leave England reeling at 6/90 in the 24th over, dismissing the dangerous Jos Buttler and Chris Woakes in consecutive balls. 

The leg spinner, operating from the Shane Warne Stand end, finished with 4/31 from 5.4 overs as all the bowlers shared the wickets.

The win at the MCG means Australia have swept the series over England 3-0, after victories in both Adelaide and Sydney.

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