England vs Australia: 4th Test Preview

Yesterday’s preview that wasn’t a preview rather removed anything that’s not a preview from this preview.  Or something.

Anyway, here we are, 1-1 in the series, a genuinely epic conclusion to the last Test match and everything to play for. England have replaced Woakes with Craig Overton, continuing the glorious English tradition of making a bowler pay the price for the failures of the batsmen to score enough runs.  Woakes was used sufficiently sparingly in the last couple of Tests to cause speculation about him having an injury.  That England insist he’s fit rather makes it worse – as it means Root didn’t bowl him through choice.  Overton is clearly intended to come in and be the workhorse, which is all very well as long as he keeps it tight and looks mildly threatening sufficiently to allow Broad and Archer to not be ground into the dirt.  Nice plan, let’s see if it happens.

The other change England are making is to swap the positions of Denly and Roy, a tacit admission that despite the insistence that being a white ball opening batsman is sufficient preparation and similarity of role for doing so in Test cricket, they’ve got it wrong.  Who could possibly have seen that coming?  Roy has plenty of talent, that much isn’t in doubt, but a refusal on the part of the selectors to accept the differences in the roles gave him little chance of succeeding.  Whether he has the technique to bat at four is equally in doubt, but England’s insistence on defining attacking cricket as being able to smack the ball around in a limited overs contest means that short of an open admission that the selection was entirely wrong, this was likely the only change they could make.  It looks a touch more stable at the top, albeit it now places Denly at a disadvantage, but his innings at Headingley did at least show he was more likely to last the first five overs than Roy.  Denly’s innings in Leeds was needed for his own sake, and while he likely isn’t quite good enough for Test level (few are) he is at least approaching his innings with a desire to occupy the crease, something in perilously short supply in the England order

Australia have responded to their bowlers failure to defend 359 by dropping a batsman, which would be rather more amusing were it not for being an obvious necessity in order to bring the returning Smith back into the batting order.  Khawaja is the unlucky one, and in his case it might be that he really is unlucky.  He’s not shone this series, but nor has he been a particular failure either – he’s certainly looked the best of the top three to date – Australia’s reluctance to drop Marcus Harris after one game being the primary reason for sitting him out of this one.  Marnus Labuschagne has taken his chance expertly enough, but there’s something a little strange about making Khawaja captain for the tour match and then dropping him for the Test.

Pattinson is rested for the fourth Test, presumably for Peter Siddle to return.  Australia are in the pleasant position of having sufficient stocks of fast bowlers that Mitchell Starc still hasn’t appeared in the series, and few of the journalists are suggesting he will in this one.  Maybe a surprise will happen.

Smith’s return does set up the prospect of he and Archer renewing hostilities, and there’s little doubt that England will look to target him with the short ball utilising Archer’s extra pace.  Smith would be less than human if he weren’t a little apprehensive about that, but the bigger danger for England is in over-doing a tactic and forgetting that a good ball is a good ball, whoever it is bowled at.  It will still be pure theatre when they face off against each other and he will be more than aware of what is coming.

As for the way the game will unfold, the return of Smith is undoubtedly a boost for Australia, but other than that not a huge amount has changed in terms of the weaknesses of both sides.  The top orders still look exceptionally brittle, the middle orders still get exposed too early, the bowling attacks still look to be on top.  But England are level in this series because of a completely outrageous performance from one player.  They have looked second best in the series for the majority of the time, and relying on Stokes to pull off the ridiculous doesn’t seem a strategy likely to yield consistent results.  Australia will certainly be wary of a player who can do that kind of thing, no matter what the match position, it’s just that it’s asking far too much for him to do it on more than an occasional basis.

Australia should be the favourites, both for this match and for the series, based on what we’ve seen so far.  But England can certainly play better than they have, even with a flawed batting line up.  They’ve had a lifeline, a hail Mary of a win – whether they can use that to raise their game collectively is a different matter.  But a finish as good as the last one, that would indeed be welcome.  Already, as is the wont of those who delight in the clickbait, some are suggesting this series could be as good as 2005.  To put it mildly, the last two Tests would have to be extraordinary for that to be the case, even discounting the standard of the two sides in this one compared to 14 years ago.  It’s silly, it’s always silly.  But it carries on, for that is the journalistic world in which we now live.  A decent game, that goes the distance, that’ll do here.

Comments, as ever, below.


25 thoughts on “England vs Australia: 4th Test Preview

  1. metatone Sep 3, 2019 / 8:27 pm


    Mr Overton


    • nonoxcol Sep 4, 2019 / 11:20 am


      third change, having been touted as the workhorse of the rejigged attack.

      Galaxy Brain stuff, this.


  2. metatone Sep 3, 2019 / 8:33 pm

    With the caveat that I think Aus are stronger overall, I do think that to be fair it should be acknowledged that as much as England won a game from one player’s outrageous performance, Aus too were dependent on an extraordinary performance to win the game they won. It really isn’t that normal for a batsman to score two big centuries in a match.

    Which is to say, I suppose, both teams are so flimsy this match will turn on which individual has an amazing match. Aus look strong because overall you’d put down one of their bowlers as due a match winning performance…


  3. thelegglance Sep 4, 2019 / 8:18 am

    I didn’t quite believe the certainty the press had that Starc wouldn’t play. Seems he’s going to.


    • metatone Sep 4, 2019 / 9:16 am

      Would have been mad not to, simply because some of Aus bowlers looked very fatigued towards the end of Stokes’ miracle marathon.


  4. nonoxcol Sep 4, 2019 / 10:07 am

    Debate: does 18 runs in 6 innings, all single figures, two ducks, average 3.00, justify ignoring Warner’s sole contribution of 61 and declaring that he’s having a shocker?

    or is that…



    • metatone Sep 4, 2019 / 10:07 am



    • dannycricket Sep 4, 2019 / 10:14 am

      As an opener? Yes. I value consistency and regularly seeing out the new ball more than total runs in that position.


    • dArthez Sep 4, 2019 / 10:39 am

      Honestly, no idea why Warner keeps being preferred. Might as well pick an extra bowler. The extra runs will also come in handy.


  5. metatone Sep 4, 2019 / 10:13 am

    On Archer – it strikes me that he’s decided the best way to survive Test cricket is to slowly crank his speed up – it’s like he knows he is going to be overbowled so he knows he has to pace himself


  6. metatone Sep 4, 2019 / 10:16 am

    It looks pretty nippy up in the temp stand…


  7. thebogfather Sep 4, 2019 / 10:25 am

    The best chance for England to regain the Ashes is for this to be a rain affected draw,,,

    Liked by 1 person

    • dlpthomas Sep 4, 2019 / 12:54 pm

      I believe you have 2 wishes left.


  8. dArthez Sep 4, 2019 / 10:38 am

    Harris unlucky there.


  9. metatone Sep 4, 2019 / 10:58 am

    Ok, it’s been a fun morning, but now we’re in for a day of “England have no idea how to get Smith or Labu-shane out…”


    • dlpthomas Sep 4, 2019 / 12:37 pm

      I’d start the next session with Archer and tell him to let it rip.


  10. metatone Sep 4, 2019 / 11:37 am

    Overton looking about as threatening a bowler as well… me…


  11. dArthez Sep 4, 2019 / 2:29 pm

    Looks like we will get all of 26 overs in a full day, mainly due to rain, and to a lesser extent to an lethargic overrate (and since 6 of those overs were bowled by Leach makes it even less palatable). I guess that works out to 50p a ball bowled for the paying spectators, more or less?

    On the bright side for England supporters, they will not have seen Smith and Labuschagne bat at all this afternoon..

    Still, with the glaring weaknesses in both batting orders (or in the case of England lack of order, with just about everyone in the top six batting out of position, barring Burns), provided the weather eases up in the next few days, we will have a decisive result in a few days in all likelihood.


  12. nonoxcol Sep 4, 2019 / 2:41 pm

    I don’t remember us covering this, for fairly obvious reasons given the timing of the announcement.


    But while it’s raining…


    (you know, the ones separate to Test tours that never even existed prior to 2012, were sold to gullible fools then as a one-off and will now have happened three times, meaning the Australians have been over here three summers in a row 2018-20, and eight out of twelve between 2009 and 2020)


    • dArthez Sep 4, 2019 / 2:46 pm

      Which are the missing summers? I mean at this point it is much more news that Australia don’t play cricket in England, than if they do.

      Don’t forget that there was a Champions Trophy in 2017, and a few other assorted ICC tournaments that actually increase the count as well.


      • nonoxcol Sep 4, 2019 / 2:56 pm

        2011, 2014, 2016, 2017. I’m deliberately only counting actual tours separate to ICC tournaments.

        Even SA, famously shafted for the ODIs in 2012, only missed four years afterwards.


    • nonoxcol Sep 4, 2019 / 2:51 pm

      Supplementary note that the New Zealanders have toured twice in the same 12-year period, will not have been here in five summers since the momentous tour of 2015 – the joint longest gap for any of the other seven main Test nations in the modern era, matching India 1991-95 inclusive and Pakistan 2011-15 inclusive – played their two Tests at the same grounds in both 2013 and 2015, had to share the summer with the Aussies both times and have only been here 3 times since 2004.

      Completely fucked, and no-one who matters gives a shit.

      Liked by 1 person

      • dArthez Sep 4, 2019 / 3:09 pm

        That is even worse than the five year gap South Africa enjoyed (2012 – 2017), after all the talk of making the series iconic, due to the closely fought nature of series between the two sides. At least New Zealand were not subjected to such nonsensical promises, even if everyone agreed that New Zealand were wonderful tourists in 2015.

        By the way, Sri Lanka, India, South Africa all have won series in England since 2001, while New Zealand, and Pakistan have drawn at least one (and New Zealand in particular might have won one of those series if S. Ravi had been remotely competent). Something Australia have not even achieved in the 18 years since then.

        The only teams that have fared just as badly as Australia are the West Indies (but that is hardly surprising, the last time they won an away series against one of the big teams was in 1995), and Bangladesh, who simply can’t even get a fixture in England to begin with.

        But, yeah, anyone who expects MERITOCRACY to apply to the ECB is probably best considered clinically insane.

        Liked by 1 person

  13. dArthez Sep 4, 2019 / 3:37 pm

    Now we are playing without bails. Considering how often bails have failed to come out of the grooves this year when the stumps have been hit, I really don’t think this is particularly fair on the batsmen.


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