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The Ashes 2015 – 3rd Test Preview

Even though the Series stands tied after a win each, you sense England go into this Third Test with trepidation and concerns and perhaps more on the back foot than at the start of the Series as they headed to Cardiff.  And it is no surprise after such a crunching defeat at Lord’s.  It is impossible not to have that on your mind rather than reflect on all the positives that were had at Cardiff.  The First Test at Cardiff was a close game.  Sure, we won comfortably enough in the end, but it wasn’t until the last couple of sessions did all England fans feel truly confident of victory.  At Lord’s, Australia well and truly thumped England from start to finish and there was only one session where England were even remotely in the game, when Stokes was batting with his Skipper.  After the Skipper sadly perished just before reaching what would have been his 28th Test match century, the capitulation was not just humiliating, but damaging to the whole morale of the team and the nation.  It will be hard to come back from that for sure!

So, changes were needed and….. a change has been made.  There were a few players who would have been worried about a call from the selectors.  Ian Bell survived the noose and was surprisingly given another red rose to carry on his romance with Test cricket and Adam Lyth continues his tough introduction into Test cricket at the top of the order.  Instead it was Gary Ballance who was cut from the top order and deservedly, Johnny Bairstow wins his second chance at Test cricket and will slot in at No.5, while Root and Bell shuffle up the order.  Ballance is a little unlucky, but only unlucky based on his record being comparable to Bell and Lyth.  Comparable, in that all three have not had a great year.  All three have a Test century this year, but all three have scored few other runs.  All three could have been dropped for this Test and indeed, this Series.

That they weren’t is largely due to not having that many others knocking on the door and asked to be let in.  Lyth has little competition because of the difficulty of being an opener in Test cricket.  His county partner in crime, Alex Lees, is probably the next in line, but he has not set the world alight this season, averages under 35 in first class cricket and has scored only one ton this year and that was exactly 100, so even then, he didn’t go on to score the ‘daddy hundred’ that management craves.  Others talk of Alex Hales being thrown in to play the David Warner role and shake up the top of the innings.  But that is naïve thinking.  Hales is not an opener in first class cricket and I fancy Messrs Starc and Hazelwood would be licking their lips at the thought of taking the new cherry against him.  The only other potential consideration is to throw one of the current members of the team in there and in theory, Moeen Ali, Root and indeed Bell, all could do the job.  But again none of them realistically are openers and to mess with the order would be messing with them and potentially destructive to the whole team.  So Lyth it is for this whole Series I fancy and good luck to him.  He certainly has the grit and the desire and unlike some of his colleagues, one thing is for sure, he won’t be fearing the pace attack, he will be revelling in it.  I just hope he comes through.

Bell is under more scrutiny than Lyth.  He survives based on his experience and that making two changes might be viewed as desperation.  He is a concern for sure and his age is against him, as some suggest that his reactions aren’t what they were and his career might be fading slowly into the sunset.  I certainly thought his dismissal in the first innings appeared rather amateurish as he disappointingly didn’t cater for the swing that was there for all to see.  Unlike Lyth, he may not survive the Series and obviously needs a big score, if not at Edgbaston, but certainly at Trent Bridge.  If not, I fancy that will be his England career over and that will be a sad decline of such an illustrious career.  And what a shame that would be, as who doesn’t enjoy watching him bat when in full flow..?!

As for the rest of the team, well, Cook, Root, Stokes and to an extent, Moeen Ali are well set for the Series.  The bowlers are also there for the duration, with Mark Wood showing plenty of spice to keep him in the side ahead of Plunkett and Finn.  I also have no doubts that Jos Buttler is going to be the keeper for some time to come, but I am a little disappointed with his batting.  We all know he is a tremendous talent, but does he really have the temperament to be a Test match batsman..?  His average is healthy, but he is yet to score a century and indeed, has only 4 first class hundreds to his name and frankly, Moeen is a little unlucky to be batting below him and if Bairstow takes off, he is more than capable of taking over the gloves.  Buttler knows he has to step it up!

As for the Australians, well they are in great shape.  Their bowling unit will be flying high and with the two changes at Lord’s working out so well, they look very settled at the top of the order.  Looks like Chris Rogers will be okay to play tomorrow after that nasty blow.  Sad for us English as he looks in sparkling form, but great for Australia and of course him, in his last few Test matches.  Also looks like Voges will remain ahead of Shaun Marsh, but he will certainly be feeling the pressure.

And so to Edgbaston where again, winning the toss will be important.  The ground has been batsmen friendly this season.  Back at the end of June, over 1,200 runs were scored in 4 days for just the loss of 12 wickets and then just two days later, Brendan McCullum smashed 11 sixes in a monster 158 not out for the “Birmingham Bears” in the T20 Blast.  However, since then, it seems runs have been harder to come by and only three days after McCullum’s destruction, Warwickshire were ripped out for just 69 against the current Champions, Yorkshire.  Who knows how it will be from tomorrow, but I fancy whoever wins the toss will be very happy to bat first and fancy their chances of taking a 2-1 lead in this fascinating Series.

I must say, I can’t wait!

Til then,


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