England will want to address a misfire after their top four all failed to reach 20 against Afghanistan and the team managed just seven boundaries in all off the bat, including three in five balls to No. 5 Liam Livingstone. But seamers Mark Wood and Chris Woakes made continued good progress along their respective injury comeback trails to bolster Curran’s diamond run. Ireland opener Paul Stirling looks in decent touch with an unbeaten 66 against West Indies and 34 from 25 balls as his team’s second-highest scorer behind Harry Tector’s 45 against Sri Lanka, but both will need more against England.
(last five completed matches, most recent first)
In the spotlight
The poser for England is whether they exercise caution with Mark Wood and Chris Woakes, making their way back from elbow and knee surgery respectively. Woakes, who had been in doubt for the first game because of a thigh problem before taking 1 for 24 from his four overs, said he was hopeful of playing all five Super 12s games. Jos Buttler said on match eve that he was keen to play his strongest available side according to conditions, which would suggest both play. Should they place one or both seamers in cotton wool, England have David Willey and Chris Jordan in the wings, as well as Tymal Mills – a late injury replacement for Reece Topley.
England (possible): 1 Jos Buttler (capt, wk), 2 Alex Hales, 3 Dawid Malan, 4 Ben Stokes, 5 Liam Livingstone, 6 Harry Brook, 7 Moeen Ali, 8 Sam Curran, 9 Chris Woakes/David Willey, 10 Adil Rashid, 11 Mark Wood/Chris Jordan
Ireland (possible): 1 Paul Stirling, 2 Andy Balbirnie (capt), 3 Lorcan Tucker (wk), 4 Harry Tector, 5 Curtis Campher, 6 George Dockrell, 7 Gareth Delany, 8 Mark Adair, 9 Simi Singh, 10 Barry McCarthy, 11 Josh Little
Pitch and conditions
Ireland lost five wickets to spin against Sri Lanka in Hobart, but with some vicious pace and bounce on offer from the MCG pitch during that epic India vs Pakistan fixture, Wood’s express speed is a big plus for England. With rain forecast for the afternoon and evening in Melbourne, swing could play a part too, making England the happier side.
Stats and trivia
“Watching the game here between India and Pakistan, there was certainly some quality bowlers on show but they certainly got some assistance… it’s about seeing what’s in front of us on that day. If the ball is swinging, can we use that to our advantage? If it’s not, can we recognise that quickly and change plans if we have to?”
Jos Buttler on going with the flow.
“It’s making sure that we understand the situation, the conditions, the opposition, use that as a competitive advantage that we know that they know that we know that they know.”
Heinrich Malan, the Ireland coach, on using memories of Bengaluru 2011, or not.
Valkerie Baynes is a general editor at ESPNcricinfo