ASHES PREVIEW: England confident, but Australia will bounce back

England face their biggest Test of the summer at Lord’s, starting Thursday, as they bid to build of a blockbusting start to this Ashes series.

slider-ashes-urn-2200975Alastair Cook’s team surprised more than a few when they beat Australia in Cardiff last week, but have struggled to post back-to-back Test successes in recent times. They can also expect the wounded Australians to bite back hard.

As commentators lavished praise on England, some describing their victory as the perfect Test match performance, one wondered whether perfection could be repeated. On the basis that England cannot be that good again and Australia won’t be that bad, we’re thinking that Australia may well nick this one. After all England have struggled of late to play well after a win.

After a 124-run win over New Zealand at Lord’s in May, England then lost the 2nd Test at Headingley by 199-runs. Against West Indies in the Caribbean a draw was followed by a 2nd Test victory and a 3rd Test defeat in early May. In short you have to go back to the India series in England last summer to discover a series where England finished strongly - they won the last two Tests to take the 5-match series 3-1.

The toss could prove vital on Thursday morning. Since May 2009, England have played 13 Tests at Lord’s and won 9 of them, with 2 draws. Only India in July 2014 and South Africa in August 2012 have come away from the Home of Cricket with wins in that period.

Of the 11 positive results the team batting first has won on 10 occasions. The only team not batting first and coming away victorious was West Indies when they were inserted by England in May 2012.

It’s not a factor however, that has been recognised by all successful tossers. On 7 of the 13 Lord’s Tests since May 2009, the captain winning the toss has inserted the opposition and lost the match. So Alastair and Michael - if you win the toss BAT!!

While England have named an unchanged 13-man squad and will stick to the same starting XI if they can, Australia could make three changes. Wicketkeeper Brad Haddin will miss the match due to personal reasons and his place goes to Peter Nevill. Shane Watson is dropped after becoming a walking lbw during the 1st Test and is replaced by Mitch Marsh who scored two c enturies in the warmup matches against Kent and Essex prior to the opening Test. While the Australian camp is making positive noises over Mitchell Starc’s fitness after he limped through much of the match in Cardiff, Peter Siddle is on stand-by.

England’s only concern is a Moeen Ali side injury. If he is not passed fit on Thursday morning, Adil Rashid will make his Test debut.

Trevor Bayliss could not have asked for a better start to his tenure as England’s head coach. Going into the match he would have been wanting his team to be competitive, for the inform to perform and those experiencing poor runs to re-find their mojo. On his wishlist after the 165-run win on day four there would have been an almightly succession of ticks, including his skipper finally proving he can be the inspirational leader England need.

Meanwhile, his opposite number Darren Lehmann had a notebook full of question marks. Although English supporters will see the Watson and Haddin dropping/withdrawal as a positive their replacements are in much better form and will strengthen the team. Nevill comes off the back of a terrific Sheffield Shield season for New South Wales and Marsh is batting better than Watson and can provide more bowling overs.

Screen shot 2015-07-15 at 11.41.51When the national anthems were sung proudly by the English players at the SWALEC the pride and passion were there for all to see. The English public crave a team that plays like they believe they would given the opportunity and skill. Mark Wood tweeted: “Even if I was out of tune, singing the national anthem was special. Never forget the hairs on the back of my neck standing up! #proud #Ashes.” It was what Englishmen wanted to hear and it was heartfelt. The Ashington born paceman is quickly becoming a star of his national side. Any lingering doubts amongst supporters, and maybe the team itself, that the positive talk would not be backed up by spirit on the field of play were banished.

Screen shot 2015-07-15 at 11.49.45England outplayed the Aussies in every department in Wales. The bowlers provided a disciplined display, their lengths consistently accurate, and they worked well in tandem, whereas Australia were wayward. Joe Root continued his stellar rise up the world batting rankings with 134 and 60 (he’s now number 4) and Ballance and Bell scored runs. To suggest Brad Haddin dropped the Ashes on day one is premature, but shelling a simple chance from Root, when England’s star man was yet to get off the mark, set the tone.

Australia will come back strongly. Lehmann and Clarke will not roll over and die. Yet they are already under pressure from their own media and a strong England performance would run salt into some sizeable wounds.

And who cares if the two dressing rooms shared drinks after the 1st Test. This is the Ashes not a Club 18-30 holiday. It astonished us at Cricket Badger when Mitchell Starc’s rather tame finger to mouth sssh send-off to Ben Stokes was portrated in the media as the height of bad manners. Do we really want these two sides to look like they are getting on?

OUR 2nd TEST BETS

1480798551England start at 7/4, the Aussies are 11/8 and the draw 5/2. Don’t get too distracted by a few hints of rain on weather forecasts as Lord’s drainage system provides very short interruptions. After stealing the initiative at Cardiff we see Australia bouncing back at 11/8. You could cover yourself by playing Australia or the Draw at 2/5.

  • Top Australian batsman: Michael Clarke. Steven Smith heads the market but moves about in the crease too much and in English conditions has been found wanting. Clarke knows his game, has experienced the big occasion and can deliver again at 5/1 (1st inns).
  • Top England batsman: It may surprise you but we are going for Gary Ballance, He has a terrific record at Lord’s with 3 centuries in 8 first-class innings and that 61 in Cardiff will bring confidence back. He’s 6/1 (1st inns).
  • Top England bowler: Stuart Broad (main photo) was exceptional in Cardiff and likes Lord’s. His lengths were spot on, in fact England outdid Australia with the ball all four days, and he’s our punt at 3/1 (1st inns).
  • Top Australian bowler: Josh Hazlewood looked a real find in the 1st Test and always had a wicket taking threat. The pick of the Aussies so far he’s 3/1 (1st inns). One caveat is, he needs to get used to the Lord’s slope.
  • Our man of the match in an Australian win would be Hazlewood at 14/1.

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James Buttler

James Buttler

James has been working as a cricket journalist and broadcaster since 2006.
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.
He's unsurprisingly a complete cricket badger!
James Buttler

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