The Ashes: 2nd Test preview

Brad Haddin won’t be playing in this match for personal reasons – there’s nothing else that need be said about that except to wish him well.  Cricket is just a game.

Few realistically expected England to arrive at Lords 1-0 up, and even fewer to have been so dominant at Cardiff, a venue where Australia were thought to hold all the cards before the game.   Reports indicate that Shane Watson will be jettisoned from the team, and if so it is hard to escape the feeling that it will be the end of his Test career.  It seems exceptionally harsh to do so after one match, given he was downright unlucky in both innings but especially the first.  Selecting Mitchell Marsh for the first Test would have been a perfectly reasonable choice; but having gone with Watson, to then drop him after a single outing carries the whiff of panic about it, both scapegoating him for the team’s failings and effectively an admission it was the wrong call in the first place.

Furthermore, it is hard to see a way back for Watson now, meaning a player who is likely to be somewhat disgruntled is in the squad for the remainder of the series with little chance of selection ever again.  It’s the kind of muddled thinking that we’ve seen all too often from England in recent times.

Peter Nevill will make his debut as ‘keeper for this match, and by all accounts is a batsman/keeper rather than a wicketkeeper/batsman.  Lords has made more than one highly competent wicketkeeper look foolish with the ball moving after the bat, so it will be a tough challenge for him to start his international career there.  Perhaps many England supporters too will hope he has a decent game.

It seems likely that Starc will play, demonstrating that Cricket Australia now operate a Mitchell quota system.  There’s been little said about continuing to bowl him so extensively at Cardiff, but there must be question marks about his fitness over five days.  The enforced retirement of Ryan Harris was clearly a blow, but the ineffectiveness of the seamers has produced ripples of concern about the depth of the Australian bowling stocks.  More than anything, it is a response to the result on a very slow pitch rather than a real problem, Starc, Hazlewood and Johnson remain a major threat.

The same can be said for the batting, and it is striking how a single result can change the perception and the reading of the two sides.  Australia’s batting is now fragile, Warner is having difficulty with the pitches and the swinging ball (as an aside, it is quite impressive how Warner can so consistently say the wrong thing – why on earth would he come out with that?), Chris Rogers’ failure to score a century is reaching crisis proportions, Clarke is all over the place against Broad, Steve Smith’s technique is questionable in English conditions, while for England Cook has become a great captain, Root is the best batsman in the world, Bell is back, Stokes is devastating, Wood is the heir to Simon Jones and so on.

It’s nonsense of course, Australia’s batting isn’t necessarily their strong suit, but little has changed since before the series began except that they played appallingly in one match – more than anything, getting in and getting out is something batsmen view as the ultimate crime, and they did it spectacularly across the board.  What has changed is that they’re under a little more pressure to perform than before, because defeat at Lords and the prospect of the team unravelling comes into view.  The records of the players involved means there is no reason why they shouldn’t come back with a vengeance, and although the Lords surface is likely to be fairly slow again, it’s usually an excellent batting wicket and one they should find to their liking.

For England, it is likely they will name an unchanged side.  Moeen Ali was the big doubt, but Adil Rashid’s endless wait for his debut will continue, as he has been ruled out by injury.  That Moeen was set to miss the match clearly means he isn’t going to be completely fit, and thus his selection is a considerable gamble.  From this distance it’s impossible to know how serious it is, but for a player to be considered unfit to play, and then magically sufficiently fit when his replacement is unavailable hardly seems like good management of resources.  It should also be remembered that if the injury flares up during the game, England will not be entitled to a substitute fielder, and one would imagine Australia will be very aware of that – of course the same applies to Starc.

Although England’s batting performed very well at Cardiff, they have been prone to falling over in recent times, and not always in hostile conditions.  Early wickets were lost in the first Test for not very many, something that they have become rather prone to, and they aren’t always going to recover from that.  Cook had a quiet game with the bat, and despite Root’s heroics, he remains instrumental in drawing the sting from the seamers.

It’s extremely hard to call this game.  It will likely go near the distance, as Lord’s is the epitome of a chairman’s pitch.  Australia have a slight hint of disarray about them, but that will be swiftly put aside if they play well here.  England have the opportunity of opening up some major cracks in the opposition, but they will have to play better than they did at Cardiff to do that.  Should they do so, then all bets are off for the remainder of the series, and the howls of protest from Down Under will be loud and long.

I’ve said before that you don’t know a team is past it until it actually happens, and they often spectacularly implode when it does (viz. England 2013/14), but equally one defeat doesn’t for a second mean we are there yet.  For that reason, this Test is completely pivotal.  An Australian victory sets the expected balance of the world back on its perceived correct axis.  An England victory, and it’s crisis point.  It will be a fascinating five days.


32 thoughts on “The Ashes: 2nd Test preview

  1. man in a barrel Jul 15, 2015 / 5:49 pm

    Re Moeen, I really hope that it is not a flare-up of the injury he had after the World Cup…and he was rushed back into the Test team in the West Indies despite not being 100%. Botham said on air when Jordan pulled up that it takes 2 months to get over an inter-costal muscle injury and he ought to know. If the English selectors have been guilty of over-working Moeen by bringing him back when the condition was not completely stable,then they should really be punished.


      • man in a barrel Jul 15, 2015 / 6:02 pm

        Very often, you find that if you are not confident in one part of your body, you modify your action which, in turn, puts extra strain on another part of the body. As examples, both Sobers and Tom Cartwright had knee injuries and, to compensate for not being able to pivot properly on the front leg, they put extra strain on their shoulders, which eventually got injured too. It is quite possible that something similar has happened to Moeen. I really hope the Aussies are not running the same sort of risk with Starc.

        Liked by 1 person

      • metatone Jul 15, 2015 / 6:11 pm

        My interpretation was similar to @Man In A Barrel. The body is a system, an incompletely healed injury often leads to another different injury when you try to compensate to play on.


      • man in a barrel Jul 15, 2015 / 10:52 pm

        I am now casting my mind back and thinking that Moeen seemed to be moe


      • man in a barrel Jul 15, 2015 / 10:56 pm

        I am now casting my mind back and thinking that Moeen seemed to be more front-on in delivery, which also accentuated his arm extention. Either I am delusional or the ECB could have a big problem on their hands


  2. paulewart Jul 15, 2015 / 5:57 pm

    I’m not sure I agree with you about Shane Watson, Vian. Mitch was banging on the door, Watto was playing for his place. It seems a perfectly reasonable and rational selection to me, Boof’s not the type to panic.


    • thelegglance Jul 15, 2015 / 5:59 pm

      All fine. Then they should have selected him for the first Test. Dropping someone after one is either panic or admitting you were wrong in the first place.


      • escort Jul 15, 2015 / 6:11 pm

        If the final choice goes to the captain then Watson should be worried i think.


      • thelegglance Jul 15, 2015 / 6:13 pm

        It seems pretty likely he’s out (although I daresay he’ll ask for a review).

        Liked by 2 people

      • metatone Jul 15, 2015 / 6:14 pm

        What seems strange to me (and reflective of some bad times in the England camp in the past) is that Clarke didn’t really give Watson a fair shake of the ball, despite him being the obvious choice on a slow pitch to spell a wayward quick. All of which is to say that Clarke seems to have lost confidence in him, at which point (with Starc possibly not properly fit) Watto was doomed.


  3. Arron Wright Jul 15, 2015 / 6:11 pm

    Nice to read a *sober* preview that doesn’t resemble the written equivalent of premature ejaculation.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. metatone Jul 15, 2015 / 6:15 pm

    I’m rather gutted by Rashid’s injury. He may never get another chance. Also, I may be being oversensitive, but the tone of reporting seems a bit down on him for declaring himself unfit.

    Liked by 2 people

    • hatmallet Jul 15, 2015 / 10:20 pm

      Got to have a chance of playing in the UAE? We’ll need two spinners.


  5. SimonH Jul 15, 2015 / 7:20 pm

    Weather forecast very good for the first four days at least.

    I put it down to the genius of Andrew Strauss.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. SimonH Jul 15, 2015 / 7:43 pm

    A few random points:

    1) Australia will have a debutant keeper and a new first slip (Voges). The potential is there for a Bob Willis ‘After you Claude’ incident. They’ll also need a new short leg (probably Steve Smith).
    2) Moeen Ali’s injury should point Australia in the direction of aiming to keep England out in the field for lengthy periods of time.
    3) On some of the chuntering that’s starting about Steve Smith isn’t really that good and his technique will be found out, it might be worth noting he is the only one of the Root/Williamson/Kohli/Smith quad who averages fifty outside his home country. None of the others averages over 45.

    Liked by 1 person

    • metatone Jul 15, 2015 / 8:04 pm

      I think Smith is the real deal and will come good (unfortunately) in this series, probably starting at Lords.

      However, the ave in the WI (141.50) I think should be approached with a bit of caution since it comes off 2 games. And it has to be noted that his SA ave (67.25) came on pitches that looked a lot like Aussie pitches (hence it being very similar to his ave at home – 66.05).

      However, England (34.06), India (40.25), UAE (43.50) seems rather Root-esque (to coin a phrase.)

      Another “blame the ICC” oddity, he hasn’t played in NZ yet, at least according to statsguru.


    • Arron Wright Jul 15, 2015 / 9:18 pm

      I’m deadly serious – the first four paragraphs of this are the worst thing I’ve read all year. Like, Jim Holden bad.


      • Rohan Jul 15, 2015 / 9:34 pm

        Yes it’s dire. The first three paragraphs are fine without the 4th, it’s the 4th which seals it by trying to say Cook is greater than the aforementioned moments/players/eras etc.

        Abysmal and just plain wrong; sycophantic nonsense!


      • Arron Wright Jul 15, 2015 / 9:41 pm

        I disagree, because the very first sentence tells you there is no limit to the realms of Berry’s sickly hyperbole. That sentence makes it absolutely clear where he’s going – the fourth paragraph is just the depressing proof that he believes this ratshit.


    • dvyk Jul 15, 2015 / 11:11 pm

      England under-performed in Australia last year to a bizarre and embarrassing degree. Cook threw away several tests with brainless captaincy, and the entire team capitulated spinelessly largely because of his weak leadership. Berry should be explaining how the hell England managed to lose 13 out of 14 games in Australia immediately after dominating the Ashes a few months earlier.

      To a large degree, England’s success in this series (should it continue beyond the first game!) would just emphasise how pathetic England were in Aust, rather than being a benchmark for current achievement.


  7. dvyk Jul 15, 2015 / 9:23 pm

    I for one do detect a whiff of panic from Aust, though it might just be my own panic that I’m sensing. Australia’s only real plan B for this series was Hazlewood for Harris on case of injury, and that has already been decided. (I would have preferred to see Hazlewood there anyway, to be honest.)

    Apart from that, Watson hasn’t worked out and probably shouldn’t have been picked. Voges has to work out well or it’s a complete waste. In agreement with what Dmitri said on another thread, that it might have been better for Aust to start building a test team around the core of their ODI side. I’m open to being corrected on this,. but from what I’ve seen of Finch, I would have liked to see him opening (maybe even with Rogers, with Warner at 5 or 6, perhaps. I dunno). Maxwell and Faulkner seem to have plenty of potential too. Why not???

    As it is the destroyer of England’s ODI side will be playing, although that was against the England Pantomime XI, so it doesn’t really count.

    While I understand (and appreciate) caution in sensible English fans, I’ve seen enough of Aust to say that they are already in disarray and their plans have already come quite unstuck. I can’t see them winning a single test or even dominating for any more than the odd single session.

    Maybe a win in away tests should count as two, like in Champions League football.


    • Rohan Jul 15, 2015 / 9:40 pm

      Dvyk, although my comment below states I still think Aus can make us crack. I have to say I agree with you. I can’t help feeling you are right about the disarray and Eng will win at Lords.


    • Steve Jul 16, 2015 / 6:53 am

      “Hazlewood for Harris on case of injury”

      I don’t think this was ever going to be the case. I think (a) Haris wouldn’t have played in the first test, (2) If there was a selection change for any of the three Johnson would have been the one missing out given he is the lease controlled (and worst performing in terms of wickets) of the three quicks they have used in WI and Cardiff.


      • Steve Jul 16, 2015 / 7:11 am

        ” but from what I’ve seen of Finch, I would have liked to see him opening (maybe even with Rogers, with Warner at 5 or 6, perhaps. I dunno). Maxwell and Faulkner seem to have plenty of potential too. Why not???”

        Finch either makes nothing or a century your number 3 would be out there in the first 2 overs 80% of the time. He’s the Anti-Watson, he’s never been that great in first class which is why he’s not included. Maxwell batted at 3 in the disaster in the UAE, and while the progression from T20 specialist to tests is certainly out of the question (cf. Warner, D) I don’t think he also has convinced at first class that he has the temperament for the longer game.

        Faulkner is suspended for drunk driving – but I think he is very much in the selectors frame long term.


  8. Rohan Jul 15, 2015 / 9:28 pm

    Great article TLG really enjoyed that read. In particular, I agree wholeheartedly about the unnecessary England hyperbole, perfectly summised in your ‘Mark Wood is the heir to Simon Jones’ comment. Why are the MSM so ludicrous? Why do they not heed the past? Why do they not learn their lessons? It was one good test, let’s see what the other 4, 80% bring.

    I also really liked your closing paragraph; great statement of fact and truth to show exactly where we are. Again the MSM could learn from this. No emotion, no bias, no favouritism or blatant propping up of someone not up to the job, no trotting out the desired ECB line. Just a clear and concise summary. Spot on.

    I think Aus will be hurting massively. I still think if (and perhaps it’s a bigger IF now) Aus can pressurise us sufficiently, there is a very good chance we will crack, a la Headingley day 4 (pick either) or Bridgetown.

    One thing I am thinking more clearly on, is that all 5 test matches will produce a result, unless weather intervenes.


  9. Steve Jul 16, 2015 / 2:35 am

    “the ineffectiveness of the seamers has produced ripples of concern about the depth of the Australian bowling stocks.”


    Despite wayward bowling in the first two sessions, Starc took 7 wickets at 25, Hazlewood 5 @ 26. Broad was the only seamer who did better 5 wickets @20.

    Comparing player for player in the bowling, its clear that Johnson was the only one of the Aus attack who failed to perform over the test – particularly in the first innings, Wood was able to provide solid support to England attack which Johnson plainly didn’t.

    I suppose Watson V Stokes is also a point of failure bowling wise.


    • Mark Jul 16, 2015 / 7:59 am

      “MCC sources say the club felt it could not be seen to be endorsing a film critical of the ECB.”

      No , we,can’t have that, can we?

      There is something rotten about the idea that Giles Clarke still has a position at the ECB. Colin Graves should not have allowed Clarke to become President or whatever his ludicrous title is.


    • Arron Wright Jul 16, 2015 / 8:41 am

      I don’t suppose Sky/ECB TV will be in a hurry to run a Death of a Gentleman feature either…

      Over to you, TMS.

      I still despise the powers behind English cricket far too much to support the Test side. Quite surprised how many of us are able to separate them, to be honest. I’m not supporting anything that enables people like Giles Clarke to throw the last two years and more back in our face and spit on everyone while he does it. All very well certain correspondents saying how great and momentous the NZ tour was, but do we hear a peep about why the New Zealanders won’t be seen again for at least five years? Do we hell.


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