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The Ashes 2015 – The Cost of Victory

Having bounced back so well after such a humbling defeat, you would be forgiven for thinking that England go into the 4th Test on Thursday at Trent Bridge full of confidence and considered as favourites.  Alas, one big factor stands in their way of winning this match and in turn, the Ashes back and no, it is not the sequential recent results of WLWLWLW, it is of course, the huge loss of one James Michael Anderson, injured on his 33rd birthday and out for Trent Bridge, a particularly happy hunting ground for him in the past.

Certainly, Mark Wood is favourite to take his place and no question he is a decent bowler who can ‘do a job’, but not even Stuart Broad, Jimmy’s partner in crime for so many years, can really be trusted to fill his shoes to such an extent.  It is not just the wickets Jimmy takes, it is the control he brings with it and his figures in the second innings at Edgbaston (1-16 off 8 overs) in a way, seemed more telling to me than his six-fer in the first innings.  With David Warner and Steve Smith at the top of the Australian order, it might be easy for them to get off to a flying start if the new ‘new-ball’ pair don’t get it right.

So, Australia favourites in Nottingham..?  Well, you have to have them as favourites for every game, even if it is only slight and yet, going into this game, they now seem to be the ones clamouring for changes.  It worked for Lord’s, with Mitch Marsh and Nevill doing grand jobs, but now it seems Shaun Marsh and Peter Siddle are being cried for to come to the Baggy Greens’ aid.  It is a few days away, but I agree Voges and Starc could do with a rest; both more than capable of making a comeback.  Shane Watson is also not a million miles away from making the starting line-up, but I fancy there will only be the one batting change and that will be adding a Marsh to the equation.

There is also a lot of talk about changing the batting line-up by dropping the troubled skipper down the order.  I am not sure that will help him very much batting at 5 instead of 4 and really with him, it is about getting some form and that is tough against an attack that have very clear plans about how to bowl to him and more importantly, how to get him out.  England’s battle cry is clear.  Get Warner early, then Rogers and Smith are the key scalps.  After them, “We’re into them!”

Indeed, I think Nottingham will be decided on who bats first (yuh, I said that for Edgbaston, didn’t I..!) and whose middle order performs.  England definitely have the edge with their batting line-up.  Bell had a very welcome return to form at his home turf, Root looked at home shuffled up to 4 and with Moeen Ali coming in at 8, you would fancy we have an outstanding batting rota.  Trouble is, Bairstow is the newbie who has much to prove, Stokes can be hit or miss (literally) and Buttler seems to only score runs when the pressure is off.  Moeen should really move up the order as well, but the England management is loathe to mess with something that works and Moeen seems very comfortable coming in late and batting with the tail.

But, just think about this.  Imagine it is the end of Day 2 at Trent Bridge and you didn’t know the score and I tell you just that England batted first and Bairstow and Stokes both scored say, 80 each.  What would you guess England’s total..?  400..?  Maybe 500..?  Yes, the middle order is key to England coping without Jimmy!  Score the runs and Broad, Wood and of course, Birmingham’s hero, Steven Finn can prevail.

The odds still surprisingly favour Australia, but with England on the crest of a wave and due a win of the toss, it is by no means beyond the realm that England win the Series and the Ashes back, come this weekend.

I have everything crossed.

Til then.

Nige.

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