Australia captain Steve Smith admits he is running out of answers as he seeks to avert a one-day series defeat to England in Sydney.

Smith could cite a handful of circumstantial reasons to explain the tourists’ convincing 2-0 lead, having been unable to name his strongest XI at the MCG or the Gabba.

Ashes-winning seamers Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins were each rested for one of those games, Hazlewood then missing a second due to a virus, while the absence of Glenn Maxwell and Nathan Lyon from the squad is down to curious selectorial whim.

But Smith knows the problems stretch deeper – with one win in Australia’s last 10 ODIs – and did not attempt to sugar the pill ahead of the SCG clash, which could see England secure the series.

Steve Smith's Australia are 2-0 down with three matches to playSteve Smith’s Australia are 2-0 down with three matches to play (Andy Brownbill/AP)

“I don’t know the answer….I wish I did,” he said of the world champions’ waning form in the 50-over format.

“In the last 10 games we have actually got ourselves into some reasonable positions and we just haven’t been able to take advantage of them. We’re still trying to find the right balance.”

Smith, who was at his all-conquering best during the 4-0 Test success against England, did not absolve himself from blame after a modest stretch in white-ball cricket.

“I definitely think I have got a lot of room for improvement,” he said.

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“I don’t think I have been playing one-day cricket as I could for the last couple of series. I have pretty high expectations of myself, and I haven’t been living up to them recently. I have got to start nailing it down. I have got a few starts but I haven’t been going on with them.”

There is some good news for the hosts, with the Ashes pace attack of Hazlewood, Cummins and Mitchell Starc likely to be reunited at the SCG.

Yet there is one notable member of their four-man bowling unit who will not be on duty: spinner Nathan Lyon.

There is an increasing clamour for the Test stalwart to return to the limited-overs set-up after some eye-catching showings in the Big Bash and it has not escaped Smith’s attention.

What a spot to enjoy the run chase 👌 #PoolDeck

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“I’m sure it will be talked about, he’s obviously had an exceptional summer,” said the skipper.

“No doubt his name will continue to be mentioned in one-day cricket.”

Joe Root played the role of vanquished rival captain to Smith during the Ashes contest but has steered England to victory in the last two matches with unbeaten knocks of 91 and 46.

But far from seeking the spotlight he talks up the team dynamic in the away dressing room, with Jason Roy’s 180 decisive in Melbourne and several other players responsible for notable efforts across the two games.

Golden Arm @root66! 🙌 #cricket #england #odi #ausveng

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“As a side we’re playing great cricket. No-one stood out in Brisbane like Jason in the first game but that shows the strength of the side,” said Root, who will win his 100th cap on Sunday.

“We don’t rely on one or two guys, we contribute the whole way down.

“I know my role pretty well in this side, you try and play with the guy at the other end and try to find a way between you to knock the score off.

“I was really pleased I was able to do that again, it was my turn, but it might be someone else next time.”