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Australia bounced back in spectacular fashion to level the Ashes series at Lord’s, defeating England by a huge 405 runs after an alarmingly familiar English batting collapse. The English team, who had been jubilant after their 169-run 1st test victory at Cardiff, went from heroes to zeros in the space of a few days and new coach Trevor Bayliss described the loss as England ‘having their backsides smacked’.
There’s no in-between in English cricket and it’s either top of the world or depths of despair, but the playing squad will do well to focus on the fact that the series is currently level at 1-1 and there are three tests to play, so it certainly shouldn’t be panic stations just yet. However, there is still work to do with the top order, and England’s lack of batting prowess was ruthlessly exposed by the tourists. Kevin Pieterson – still left out of the England squad – ramped up the pressure by tweeting from Miami saying what a waste it was that he was lying on a beach instead of playing. As much as England could do with his batting ability in this series, they could certainly do without the added pressure that he is publicly putting on the rest of the team.
3rd Test, Edgbaston, Wednesday 29th July 11am
On to the test itself, which is set to be played at Edgebaston – hosting its first test since 2012. Here are the current match odds, and it’s hard to see past Australia on a pitch that should suit their impressive bowling attack.
Aussies Bounce Back
The manner in which the Aussies were put to the sword in the first test at Cardiff was very surprising and they were expected to bounce back at Lord’s. We backed them there and we’ll follow them here to make it 2-1 in their quest to retain the Ashes.
The tourists were imperious at the crease after winning the toss, and Steven Smith’s brilliant double century led them to 566-8 declared. That gave them the platform from which to attack England’s batsmen and they quickly ripped through the English top order with only Cook offering any resistance, managing to rack up 96. England recovered from the early damage to record a fairly respectable first innings score of 312, but it was uphill from then on. Australia declared on 254-2 in their second innings, leaving England to bat 155 overs to save the game. England never looked like coming close and were bundled out for an embarrassing 103 in just 37 overs.
The Lie of the Land
The pitch at Lord’s was heavily criticized in the sense that many suspected England had requested a slow pitch to counter the Australian bowling attack. That is something that captain Cook has vehemently denied, suggesting they had asked for ‘English wickets’ which will assist the English seamers.
Edgbaston groundsman Gary Barwell insists he has been given no directive by the England and Wales cricket board, and said that he is ‘trying to produce a good quality test pitch with plenty for the bowlers and the batsman: good carry and good bounce’.
Edgbaston has been a ground for the bowlers in recent years, with England’s last five tests there producing a first innings average of just 243. Unfortunately for England that will be music to the Australian bowlers ears, and it will be a big ask for the English batsmen to withstand their ferocious attack.
Another English Inquest
Once again, as we have come to expect after any England defeat, there has been huge discussion over what went wrong, what can be done, and what changes should be made. The notion that England were simply beaten by a better team is brushed aside, and the focus is on who should be dropped, who should come in and how the batting order should be changed.
England have resisted the temptation to make wholesale changes, bringing in only Jonny Bairstow to replace Gary Ballance. Bairstow has 14 test caps to his name and has notched five County Championship centuries this season. Ian Bell is set to bat at number three on his home ground, while Joe Root moves up to four and Bairstow comes in at five. Whether the change will make a huge difference remains to be seen, and it will be down to the current players to step up their game as much as it will be down to new players to turn things around. Opener Adam Lyth keeps his place despite only managing 7 runs across his two innings at Lord’s, and he’ll be desperate to put that behind him and realize the potential that saw him called up in the first place.
There for the Taking
Unfortunately for the Barmy Army, England look there for the taking on a pitch that should suit the Aussie bowlers. Mitchell Johnson grabbed six wickets at Lord’s and he can be backed at a decent price to maintain his form and finish as top Australia bowler.
He took England apart at Lord’s and his compatriot and fellow fast bowler, Mitchell Starc, said that even when England ‘dish out slow, low wickets’ that Johnson can still ’cause havoc’. The Aussie fast bowlers were all given some time off to recover between tests while the batsmen were having a run out against Derbyshire – scoring 413-9. That rest will have done the bowlers the world of good, and with Johnson, Hazelwood and Starc, it is an intimidating attack.
The Aussie batsmen are in fine form, but it is in the bowling stakes that Australia could run away with this match. England will need to bat much, much better than they did at Lord’s, but they still look vulnerable enough to be there for the taking for Johnson and Co.
Ashes 3rd Test, Wed 29th July