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The 2015 Ashes series got off to an explosive start as England romped to a 169-run win against the touring Australians at Cardiff. There’s a new air of euphoria around English cricket, and after a dismal World Cup and tour of the West Indies, victories over New Zealand, a new style of play and a new coach in Trevor Bayliss, have brought the feelgood factor back in a big way.
However, that euphoria can’t carry a side through five tests, and England have to prove that this is not a flash-in-the-pan, but the start of a new era. The Aussies will have been wounded by that defeat and they are always at their most dangerous after a setback. The World Cup winners haven’t become a poor side overnight, and they will provide England with a stern test in the second test at Lord’s. It promises to be an intriguing contest, and from a betting perspective the Aussies now represent the value call to level the series.
England Play a Blinder
We tipped England at +300 to take the first test, buoyed as they were by the New Zealand successes, and it proved to be the right call as they took the game to Australia from day one. Our tip for England’s top bowler of the series, Stuart Broad, led the way taking the wickets of three of Australia’s top four batsmen.
It had been a shaky start for England as they were reduced to 43-3 on the opening morning, but they responded to rack up 430 first innings runs. Australia were limited to 308 in the first innings, and when England added 289 from their second innings, it left the Aussies chasing 412 to win. It always looked unlikely and a spell of four wickets in 35 balls either side of lunch put to bed any hopes of a comeback. England continued to play their new style of aggressive cricket under new coach Trevor Bayliss, and it’s a far cry from the tentative side that competed in the World Cup.
Bayliss showed his quality as a leader, by deflecting any praise right back to the players, saying, “The players have been heading in the right direction over the last series with New Zealand and I was lucky to come in at this time”. Although he also cautioned against unbridled optimism, warning that when you beat Australia they come back even harder.
There was a little spat over the Australian players refusing to share a beer with their England counterparts after the first test, but it was really no more than a storm in a tea cup. It also demonstrates the way that the Ashes are held in such high esteem among players and fans, and there has been plenty of fighting talk from the two squads in the build-up to Lord’s.
Ben Stokes made no bones about it when he said claiming the 1st test victory ‘felt like revenge‘, after the 5-0 whitewash Australia inflicted on England in 2013/14. Stokes made his test debut in the second match down under, and it must have been a bitter pill to swallow. He admitted that when Joe Root took the winning catch it felt like the start of earning some revenge for that defeat, but there is a long way to go.
Fast bowler Peter Siddle wasn’t included in the line up for the first test at Cardiff, but admitted that standards had slipped among the Aussie squad, saying, “we need to perform better with bat and ball”. He also believes that we will see a different Australia in the 2nd test, as they come out firing after the disappointment of Cardiff. He also dismissed the Aussie players’ refusal to go for a drink after the game, saying in the five ashes he’d played he’d never known anyone to share a beer after just one test, and that they would do so after the whole series was over.
It would be wrong to say there is bad blood between the two sides, but there is certainly no love lost.
2nd Test Odds
Draw – +275 with Bet365
England’s brilliant performance has rightly seen their price dropped in comparison to the first test, but this is a new game starting from scratch, and the swing is a little too pronounced. Australia were a best price of +100 to win in Cardiff, and they have drifted considerably off the back of five days of cricket. The value call is to back Australia to bounce back and put England under the cosh at Lord’s.
Both teams have considerable injuries, but Australia’s are probably slightly worse than England’s. Veteran wicket keeper Brad Haddin will definitely miss the test due to personal reasons, while pace bowler Mitchell Starc is fighting a battle to be fit in time to take part. Peter Nevill is expected to earn his test debut in place of Haddin, and if Starc doesn’t make it, Peter Siddle will probably step in, although the latest news suggests Starc should be able to make the line up. In selection news, Shane Watson could be omitted from the side after scoring just 30 and 19 in the first test, off the back of a year where he has struggled for form. He could well be replaced by Mitchell Marsh, who has scored centuries in successive tour matches and is patiently waiting in the wings.
England have been rocked by the news that Moeen Ali may miss out due to a side injury, which will be assessed on Wednesday. He could be replaced by Adil Rashid if he misses out, but having made an impact in the first test, England will be keen to get him back out on the wicket. Otherwise it’s an unchanged side for Lord’s.
Plenty of punters will be lumping on England after that Cardiff performance, but Australia are a wounded animal and Lord’s could be a completely different story.
England v Australia 2nd Test, Lord’s 11am Thursday 16th July
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