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World cup  winners England beat Australia in hard fought T20 series despite the absence of Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler (the latter missed the last match)

After the World Cup, Australia toured India and they lost the series 2-1. 

Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne were consistent contributors for the Aussies but David Warner and Aaron Finch fizzled out after scoring big in the first match.

Australia continued its losing run in South Africa, where they lost, 1-2, to a Proteas side in the middle of a rebuild. 

Openers failed each time and the Aussies couldn't chase sub-300 scores,  in spite of consistent half centuries by Smith and Labuschagne.

On the other hand England also struggled to beat Ireland 2-1. They lost wickets in chasing scores of 174 and 216. It was Sam Billings' rear guard action which saw them through.

Comparison of Strength

Top order

England has Jonny Bairstow and Jason Roy, who have not been consistent. If Dawid Malan comes as one down and Tom Banton as two down, the team appears either brittle or very explosive.

England have received a big boost by a returning Joe Root as he provides a lot of stability.

Australia has Finch and Warner, who are looking in fine touch. Smith and Labuschagne are at another level currently and they will be the backbone of the Aussie side.

Steve Smith Marnus Labuschagne Australia
Steve Smith (L) and Marnus Labuschagne (R) |Credits: SportsCafe|

Australia's top order is better than England's.

Middle order

England has enigmatic captain Eoin Morgan who can be brilliant or pedestrian. Then comes Buttler followed by Billings. 

Jos Buttler England
Credits: Sky Sports

The English middle order is good for quick attack but is prone to good bowling. Stokes' absence will be a major blow.

Australia's middle order is brittle. Alex Carey was not in touch in the T20 series so he will not be confident enough to play shots or defend. Mitchell Marsh is a match winner but you can not trust him. Glenn Maxwell is truly world class and one fears him but again he doesn't provide insurance.

Glenn Maxwell Australia
Credits: Cricket Australia

England's middle order trumps that of Australia.

Bowlers

Jofra Archer, Mark Wood, Adil Rashid  and one of the Curran brothers makes for a decent bowling attack. 

Jofra Archer Adil Rashid England
Credits: Cricbuzz

Rashid is hard to score against and he caused a lot of problems for Australia in the T20s. 

Archer has not been taking wickets and that is a big worry. England will miss David Willey , who took many wickets against Ireland. Choosing a fifth bowler will be tricky so it is possible that Malan is replaced by Moeen Ali.

Mitchell Starc Pat Cummins Australia
Credits: Cricket Australia

Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Kane Richardson constitute a formidable Australian pace attack . Adam Zampa bowls lower trajectory so middle order holes out in trying to score quickly. Australia has option of Maxwell, Marsh or Labuschagne as the fifth bowler.

The Aussies have a better bowling attack than the English.

Strategy

The Old Trafford pitch is a run-scoring one if we look at the T20s. In Tests, it seemed to assist spinners.

Old Trafford
Credits: TCBolts

300 is a winning score at this venue. Batting first and scoring close to 300 is advantageous. Tight field placement and good spin will allow in stopping the chasing side.

My prediction

I expect Australia to win the series 3-0 or 2-1.

This can be reversed only if Bairstow and Roy give an opening partnership or one of them hits a century.

Featured image credits: InsideSport