Gillette ODI Series 2018

Head an ODI four to be reckoned with

Captain Smith hopes Redbacks young gun can prove to be the lynchpin of a rejuvenated middle order

Martin Smith in Melbourne

13 January 2018, 11:53 PM AEST

Captain Steve Smith is confident the revolving door of players at No.4 in Australia's one-day side can stop with Travis Head, who has been backed to fill the troublesome position against England on Sunday.

Smith will wait until the coin toss at the MCG before revealing his XI for the first Gillette ODI, with selectors opting to wait for one final look at the pitch before settling on their side.

As Australia build towards their World Cup defence in 18 months, finding a player capable of batting at second drop and stopping the batting collapses that have plagued them in the past year has become one of their most vexing issues.

Seven players have been used in the position in 15 games since George Bailey was dropped 12 months ago, including Head on the recent tour of India.

The left-hander had the worst return of his short career to date in that series, but he's been backed to fill the role again against England.

"I think Travis will bat at four in this series, to start the series anyway," Smith said.

"He's a player with a really bright future. He's captain of his state, he's got a good cricket brain and we need someone who's got some smarts there in the middle and play the right brand of cricket at the right time.

"While he didn't have his best time in India, he's played some really good cricket here at home and he looks like he's hitting the ball quite well. So hopefully he can have a big impact for us in this series."

Head is expected to follow David Warner, Aaron Finch and Smith in the order, meaning allrounders Marcus Stoinis and Mitchell Marsh will battle recalled Victorian Cameron White for the No.5 and No.6 positions.

White's recall to the ODI squad for the first time in almost three years has come after Chris Lynn was ruled out of the series due to injury, while Glenn Maxwell was controversially overlooked despite his good recent form at domestic level.

Irony not lost on White after Australian recall

The absence of Maxwell, and Smith's suggestion that the Victorian needs to 'train smarter' to improve his one-day cricket, continues to be one of the major talking points leading into the series.

The pair were photographed having coffee together on Friday afternoon – the skipper laughed and declined to divulge any information about that conversation when asked about it Saturday – and the fact that one of Stoinis, Marsh and White are unlikely to play on Sunday underlines the task Maxwell has in front of him to force his way back into the side.

Maxwell's ODI batting average in the past two years (26.31 from 25 games) compares unfavourably to those of Marsh (38.00 from 25 games) and Stoinis (113.66 from just seven games), while White averages more than 65 from his past two seasons of domestic one-day cricket.

Smith said Maxwell's role in the middle-order collapses that have seen Australia win just one of their past eight completed ODIs and drop to No.3 in the world rankings was a major factor in his axing, adding it's a problem that urgently needs to be rectified ahead of the World Cup next year.

Maxwell delivers fine all-round display

"The middle order is probably where we've had a bit of an issue," Smith said.

"Guys up the top have been scoring big runs (so) the middle order is a key area for us to focus on. We need runs out of that middle order and in particular wickets in hand so we can have an onslaught at the back end.

"That's something we haven't done, we've been losing too many wickets in the middle overs and not getting partnerships together and that's something that we need to work on.

"That's a big reason why (Maxwell) is not here at the moment.

"The selectors said he's averaged 20 in his last 20 games and we need those runs in the middle. So it's crucial that we find them. I'm confident that the guys here can do that job."

2017-18 International Fixtures

Gillette ODI Series v England

Australia ODI squad: Steve Smith (c), David Warner (vc), Pat Cummins, Aaron Finch, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Mitchell Marsh, Tim Paine, Jhye Richardson, Mitchell Starc, Marcus Stoinis, Andrew Tye, Cameron White, Adam Zampa.

England ODI squad: Eoin Morgan (c), Moeen Ali, Jonny Bairstow, Jake Ball, Sam Billings, Jos Buttler, Tom Curran, Alex Hales, Dawid Malan, Liam Plunkett, Adil Rashid, Joe Root, Jason Roy, David Willey, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood.

First ODI MCG, January 14. Tickets

Second ODI Gabba, January 19. Tickets

Third ODI SCG, January 21. Tickets

Fourth ODI Adelaide Oval, January 26. Tickets

Fifth ODI Perth Stadium, January 28. Tickets

Prime Minister's XI

PM's XI v England Manuka Oval, February 2. Tickets

Gillette T20 trans-Tasman Tri-Series

England T20 squad: Eoin Morgan (c), Sam Billings, Jos Buttler, Tom Curran, Liam Dawson, Alex Hales, Chris Jordan, Dawid Malan, Liam Plunkett, Adil Rashid, Joe Root, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes, James Vince, David Willey, Mark Wood.

First T20I Australia v NZ, SCG, February 3. Tickets

Second T20I Australia v England, Blundstone Arena, February 7. Tickets

Third T20I Australia v England, MCG, February 10. Tickets

Fourth T20I NZ v England, Wellington, February 14

Fifth T20I NZ v Australia, Eden Park, February 16

Sixth T20I NZ v England, Seddon Park, February 18

Final TBC, Eden Park, February 21