In an Ashes series that’s harder to predict than British weather, England took pole position in the race for the urn with an 8 wicket win over Australia at Edgbaston.
Their victory, secured at 3.52pm on day three, will have banished any lingering Lord’s hangovers and has given the Australian tourists much to ponder.
Michael Clarke’s decision to bat after winning the toss on Wednesday morning will be scrutinised. That Cook and every other pundit at the ground agreed with his call at the time will not shield him from criticism.
It was not entirely the pitch that saw his batting line-up corrode. Jimmy Anderson’s first innings 6-47 and Steven Finn’s 6-79 and re-emergence as a Test bowler, utilised the conditions on offer better than any of the Aussies. It was the first time two Englishmen had taken 6-fers in the same Ashes Test since 1981.
Finn’s man of the match return after being sent home from Australia 18 months ago as an “unselectable” player has worked incredibly hard to find his form. It is a measure of his character that he is back and in some style.
“When I dreamt about it before the game I didn’t think it would go quite as it has done,” he said. “I feel good at the moment with ball in hand. I’m happy and just glad to be playing for England again.”
There was a terrific over from Mitchell Johnson, where two beasts of bouncers accounted for Jonny Bairstow and Ben Stokes who, if they’d not gloved behind may well have lost their noses. That, and combative knocks from Chris Rogers in the first innings and David Warner in the second, are the only bright spots in a woeful display from an Australian side that had been imperious at Lord’s.
Clarke was honest enough to admit that he was worried about his own form and said: “We didn’t execute with ether bat or ball. I’ve got to find a way to contribute in the next Test. If I’m better at 4 for the team I’ll stay there, if I’m better at 5 I’ll move.”
After the 1st Test win at Lord’s the English media went berserk in their praise and the hacks down under mourned their side’s failures. The roles were reversed after Lord’s in a mammoth u-turn. While Michael Vaughan et al danced a Cardiff victory jig only to be left with faces caked in egg at Lord’s, Shane Warne crowed like Dame Edna on acid at the Home of Cricket and returned to his version of quiet in Birmingham.
The truth of the matter is we’re witnessing two average sides, just above at best, struggling to put back-to-back performances together. If England can go well in successive Tests, for the first time since against India last summer, when they get to Nottingham they will win the Ashes. It is however a big if.
Australia bounced back after their previous Test defeat, but one suspects this might be a tougher task. Australia played poor shots, bowled inconsistently and never looked competitive in the 3rd Test. There are question marks against half of their team. A few of their squad would undoubtedly prefer to be at home.
For England a number of questions have been answered. Bell is back is the biggest plus from his home venue. Only Moeen Ali and Adam Lyth worry this correspondent and obviously the injury to Anderson is a major blow.
Anderson will be replaced by Mark Wood in Nottingham, while Jack Brooks, Mark Foottit or Chris Rushworth are likely to be added to the squad as cover.
The trios first-class records are Trent Bridge make interesting reading with Footitt shading it. His left-arm variation and his inclusion on England’s pre-Ashes Spanish training camp should see him get the nod.
Footitt has bowled 607 balls at Trent Bridge in first-class cricket, taken 16 wickets for 438 runs at an average of 27.37 with a best of 5-45. Jack Brooks’ 554 balls have led to 12 for 372 at an average of 31.00 with a best of 4-58 and Chris Rushworth’s 581 balls have seen him take 8 for 338 at an average of 42.25 with a best of 3-113.
Moeen Ali is not a frontline Test spinner, yet he keeps getting away with it. Either Australians have gifted him wickets or he’s been taken out of the attack before his figures get too embarrassing, but it is time to look for other spin options. It’s not Moeen’s fault – he’s a part-time spinner exposed at Test level. I’d keep him in the side, but Adil Rashid must be selected at Trent Bridge.
Adam Lyth is an interesting one. He’s obviously struggling to take the step up to the highest level, but he was picked in the first place on talent and is there anyone better? He may be lucky – he’s part of a winning team making place retention easier. Perhaps it’s time to back him, tell him he’s in to the end of the series and on a plane this winter and that it’s time to play like he can, not how others are telling him.
As the editor of Cricket Badger he is intent on building the website to give quality coverage of the domestic game around the world.
James was the full-time Media Manager at Yorkshire County Cricket Club between 2007 and 2010.
James is a published author and a writer/video contributor to many cricket publications.
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