Melbourne, Feb 13: Former champions Australia will take on three-time runners England in their first match of the the ICC World Cup starting here at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) on Saturday. The two teams have met six times in the World Cup of which Australia have won four times, including the final at Kolkata in 1987.
It is the second time that Australia will take on England in its home soil in the World Cup. In 1992, the sides led by Allan Border and Graham Gooch met at the Sydney Cricket Ground where the visitors thrashed the hosts by 8 wickets. Ian Botham's all-round performance of 4-31 and a 77-ball 53 saw England prevail over their traditional rivals [See scorecard].
Australia went down to eventual champions Pakistan by 48 runs at Perth [see scorecard] to fall back in the race for the semi-finals. In both matches, Australia were shot out for 171 and 172, respectively.
The Aussies look a formidable side this time as well. Like in 1992, they have beaten India in a Test series and a tri-series and look eager to make this World Cup count. They beat England thrice in the tri-series that also involved India. But will the home pressure be a disadvantage?
Australia and England have played 6 WC matches so far with Aus winning 4 times
Stand-in captain George Bailey said his team is looking forward to win the tournament in front of the home crowd, something only India have done successfully so far (in 1996, Sri Lanka had won the title as one of the hosts but the final was played at Lahore in Pakistan).
Bailey said Australia have won World Cups around the world and the factor of playing in front of the home crowd could be seen either as a pressure or an opportunity.
England, who finished the runners-up thrice, have not won a knock-out game since that incredible semi-final against South Africa at the SCG in 1992.
Veteran fast bowler James Anderson, who is playing his fourth World Cup, said Saturday's match is a big one for both Australia and England and that the 90,000 people at the MCG will be an incentive for the players to show off their skills.
So both sides are trying to play down the crowd factor at the biggest stadium of the world.
However, Australia, apart from the home advantage, will also be ahead of the Englishmen in terms of raw pace from Mitchell Johnson, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins.
Australia: David Warner, Aaron Finch, Shane Watson, Steve Smith, George Bailey (c), Mitchell Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Brad Haddin (wk), Mitchell Johnson, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood.
England: Ian Bell, Moeen Ali, James Taylor, Joe Root, Eoin Morgan (c), Gary Ballance, Jos Buttler (wk), Chris Woakes, Stuart Broad, James Anderson, Steven Finn.