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The Ashes 2015 – England Take Early Lead

So, on Saturday, England wrapped up a rather startling victory at Cardiff in just four days, winning by a handsome margin of 169 runs.  Startling in many ways.  Australia are clearly higher ranked in the world in Test matches.  They came into the country on the back of a positive thumping of the West Indies in the Caribbean just 3 weeks ago, the same place where England struggled to a tied Series.  And they come here on the back of winning back the ODI World Cup, for the umpteenth time.

It was also surprising that England mostly dominated this game from almost the start to finish.  Only that first hour, when England slumped to 43-3, did Australia consider themselves ahead.  Once Joe Root had completed yet another terrific century, England were on top and stayed there for the course.  Each day was tremendous entertainment for the packed houses and the media pronounced that we were watching a “New England” under the guide of Trevor Bayliss and let’s not forget Paul Farbrace.  Back in early May, England were fairly woefully beaten by the West Indies in the final Test of that Series.  I fancy that was a blessing, as that finally ended the tenure of Peter Moores whose appointment was a disaster from start to finish.  Andrew Strauss has had a good start to his new job.  This “new England” looks alright to me so far.

England have much to be happy about and they will undoubtedly run out at Lord’s with the same XI.  The top order still looks a little fragile and we cannot depend on Root to drag us out of a hole every game.  But Ian Bell has enough coupons from his long distinguished career to survive this Series and his second innings’ 60, whilst a little airy-fairy, will at least give him a little confidence.  Adam Lyth looks the part without overly impressing and he and Gary Ballance will undoubtedly be given the assurance they are playing this whole Series barring injury or, say, four consecutive ducks.  Captain Cook also didn’t score too many runs, but his captaincy was on point and his catching (and indeed parrying) was terrific.

The rest all had a good game.  Joe Root has had an amazing beginning to his International career and that he has scored big and early in this Series, it is hard to deny that he is the full ticket now.  I doubt they will tinker with putting him higher in the order.  Ben Stokes also had a good game and continues to fulfill his promise.  His batting was steady, while still powerfull and his bowling is underrated and there were a couple of moments in the game where he probed well while keeping it tight.  He is the 4th seamer for sure (his is no Botham or Flintoff from that point of view), but he is a good 4th bowler and someone Cook can trust.  He remains an exciting prospect for me!

And on the subject of bowlers, they had a very fine game.  Jimmy Anderson did his usual thing (his spell with the second new ball on the third morning was exceptional), Stuart Broad was back to his best, as he tends to be when playing the Green Caps and Mark Wood continues to impress.  But the final mention goes to Moeen Ali, who had a very good game indeed.  His 77 in the first innings was crucial to the outcome and his wickets, especially in the first innings getting Smith and Clarke, were huge turning points in the game.  He is no Graeme Swann as we have said many times, but he is a very fine cricketer and the re-emergence of Adil Rashid in the England fold, means that on real spinning wickets, we can once again compete in that department.

As for Australia, they did look a little under-cooked, even though Michael Clarke admirably dismissed that.  He has a point.  They smashed the Windies just three weeks ago and they had adequate warm-up games before this one.  But you can’t deny England did look like they were playing a third Test of a Series, which Australia did not.  All the talk is of Watson being left out, which I think he will and should be.  They could also make other changes as Voges and Haddin could easily be replaced (Haddin is quoted today as out for the next game due to “personal reasons”), but wholesale changes at this early stage is unlikely and rather rash.  What I think they could easily do is push Mitchell Johnson up the order.  I know there was little pressure on him, but his innings on Saturday was mightily impressive and he is clearly a proper batsman.  For me, he could bat at 5, but maybe the Aussies should seriously think of putting him in at 6, especially if Watson and Haddin are left out..?

And so to Lord’s.  England’s record is not great there and rarely has been.  They did win back in May and they have beaten Australia there the last two meetings, but apart from that, wins have been scarce (they couldn’t even beat India there last year!).  Indeed, the English media and public are more than cautious in suggesting that we could win this Series.  It is just one game of five done.  But what if England do win again, come this Sunday / Monday..??  2-0 up will be mighty tough to come back from!   Now there’s a thought!

Til then.



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