England vs Australia | Wednesday 29 June - Sunday 02 August | Edgbaston | 12:00
Ashes enthusiasts experienced a complete and utter U-turn at Lord’s as England were annihilated at the Home of Cricket by a rampant Australian outfit. England’s capitulation at the sight of a fired up Mitchell Johnson stood in contrast to their performance in Cardiff, yet Australia’s ability to bounce back from a comprehensive first Test loss proved even more surprising. With the series level at 1-1 heading into the third Test at Edgbaston, the ability to control the tempo of the match and harness momentum will be crucial to the entire complexion of this Ashes series.
To Win Match
Is all the speak of a New England, or tactically aggressive England, really well placed? This strategy will only take a cricket team so far before the ability to absorb pressure comes to the fore, as it did in the conclusion of the second Test. As coach Trevor Bayliss iterated, the only shot England didn’t play in their second innings embarrassment was the leave. Bayliss also commented on the pitch suiting the Australians better than it did the hosts, but this cliche response after a mauling cannot apply to the Lord’s Test. Australia showed throughout that the pitch was a good one for batting and no side should have been dismantled in the manner of the English. England were comprehensively dominated in every discipline. The hosts took ten wickets to Australia’s twenty, scored 415 runs (Steve Smith and Chris Rogers made more between them) and lasted just 37 overs attempting to salvage a draw over five sessions.
England’s struggles at the top of the order are now well documented. The target of 509 set by Australia quickly became arbitrary as the tourists ripped through the English order. The top three all fell to edges behind, attempting a level of aggression not required in the match situation and Ben Stokes’ silly run-out only encapsulated the hopeless nature of the English resistance. The failures at the top have become habitual. Scores of 43/3 and 73/3 in Cardiff were followed by scores of 29/3 and 42/3 at Lord’s and any self-respecting batting line-up cannot continue to put the middle-order under such pressure. Adam Lyth has proved vulnerable outside off stump while Gary Ballance and Ian Bell are walking wickets, techniques shot. England have opted to drop Ballance in favour of Jonny Bairstow, who will bat at five with Bell and Root shifting up the order. Adil Rashid could well make his Test debut at Edgbaston as Bayliss considers the idea of fielding two spinners.
Considering the manner in which Australia were outplayed at Cardiff, their performance at Lord’s was nothing less than a remarkable turnaround. Chris Rogers and Steve Smith sucked the momentum out of England’s first Test win with a massive first innings partnership, which additionally sucked the air out of the English attack. Mitchell Johnson revived memories of Australia’s last Ashes campaign with a rejuvenated display that yet again questioned England’s stomach for the fight. Peter Nevill had a successful debut, pouching seven catches to equal the all-time record and break the one existing for wicket-keepers in an Ashes debut. Brad Haddin seeks to regain his place in the eleven following family concerns that kept him out of the second Test, but all signs point to Peter Nevill as the new number one ‘keeper in the Australian side following his donning of the gloves in their most recent tour match in Derby. There remains some doubt as to whether Chris Rogers will feature, the Australian opener suffering dizzy spells in his last innings as a result of one of many blows to the head. If unfit, Shaun Marsh comes into the side in good form having recorded a century in Derby.
Having not hosted a Test for two years, it is tough to know what to expect from the pitch at Edgbaston. Reports are that the strip has provided a good contest between bat and ball through 2015. Both Trevor Bayliss and Alastair Cook seem to want a traditional English wicket so perhaps there could be a tinge of green here. However, Edgbaston is generally a dry wicket that assists the spinners later in the match. It has generally been a happy hunting ground for England in recent years, including an innings victory over India in 2011.
VERDICT: Australia 17/20
As with every Test in this series, this could easily go one way or the other. I have a feeling that Edgbaston may suit England a bit better but when confronted with a relatively docile pitch at Lord’s, England folded. Again, the toss becomes an important barometer for victory. Both sides perform better when batting first and in England, first use of the pitch is generally preferable. Australia, however, have the mental edge. England have too much to do to improve. I’m getting behind the Aussies at a decent 17/20.