Sydney: With the World Cup in the back of their minds, favourites Australia and England will lock horns in the opening match of the ODI cricket tri-series here today, looking to test their squads one last time in the final lead-up to next month's mega-event.
England players share a light moment at the Sydney Cricket Ground yesterday. Pic/Getty Images
High on confidence after the 2-0 Test series win over India, the Australians will face England at the Sydney Cricket Ground today before renewing hostilities with the reigning World Cup title holders in Melbourne on Sunday.
The tri-series is seen as a final warm-up for all the three teams ahead of the World Cup, to be co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand in less than a month's time.
The series will provide players of all the three teams opportunity to find their form and stake a claim in the final XI of their respective sides in the World Cup.
Testing times for Morgan
The series will be specially vital for England as the team would look to settle down under new captain Eoin Morgan. In a big decision, England replaced Alastair Cook with Morgan as captain in less than two months before the World Cup to improve their chances.
Under Morgan's leadership, England have piled up runs in their two warm-up games in Canberra, scoring a total of 755. Ian Bell has been in threatening form as he blasted 187 off 145 balls in the 60-run win over the Prime Minister's XI yesterday.
But skipper Morgan is in desperate need of runs, having scored just one fifty in his past 19 ODI innings.
To add to Morgan's woes, England's ODI form has been poor off late and they will look to regain the winning touch after last year's series losses at home to Sri Lanka and India, and away to Sri Lanka.
The series is also a chance for England to better their ODI record in Australia. Since their 2006-07 tour, England have played 12 ODIs in Australia but have managed to register only two wins, the last of which came in Sydney.
Australia, on the other hand, are one of the favourites to lift the World Cup but will be without their inspirational skipper Michael Clarke in the tri-series as he is still recovering from a hamstring surgery.
In Clarke's absence, Twenty20 captain George Bailey will lead the side with Steve Clarke as his deputy.
England's ODI winning percentage in 2014