Ashes 2nd Test Preview

There has been plenty of talk since the weekend of how it is Australia, rather than England, who go into the second Test at Lord’s on Thursday with their tails wagging after running the hosts so close at Trent Bridge.

The opposite view, of course, is that the Baggy Greens were given a rare sniff of an unlikely victory and still couldn’t take it and that’s the judgment bookies and most punters are taking with England even money with Coral to go 2-0 up in the series and the Aussies 3/1 to square it (2/1 the draw).

Australia have a fantastic record against England at Lord’s – 13 wins, 13 draws and just two losses – and there is no doubt that they will have been buoyed by certain elements of their performance in Nottingham, not least the fighting spirit typified by the amazing debut boy, Ashton Agar.

But the home side showed battling qualities too – nobody out there was more dogged than Ian Bell or Jimmy Anderson – and if it then comes down to which is the better side, the statistical evidence (batsman for batsman, bowler for bowler) shouts England.

The Lord’s pitch will be livelier than that at Trent Bridge and we can expect England to be much more effective with the bat. The top order all have many happy memories of the home of cricket with Jonathan Trott (100/30 to top score for England this time) scoring two centuries there and Alastair Cook (7/2), Matt Prior (10/1) and Bell (5/1) three apiece, while Kevin Pietersen (7/2) is on the honours board five times.

As for the bowlers, there is a big media discussion going on just now over whether Steve Finn should make way for Tim Bresnan, or even Graham Onions, following his generally poor display in the first Test.

Finn certainly didn’t have the best of games and it will have irked Cook and coach Andy Flower that he wasn’t up to lending an effective hand when it got really tight on Sunday.

But the lanky paceman should be a much better proposition if persevered with. Lord’s brings out the best in him – he has taken 29 wickets there in five matches at an average of 20 (against Bresnan’s average of 66) – and it is certainly not beyond the realms of possibility that he will play a highly significant role at Headquarters.

Coral rate Finn a 4/1 chance to be England’s top bowler and 16/1 to be Man of the Match. Anderson is 8/1 to complete back-to-back Man Of The Match awards and 12/1 that he repeats his Trent Bridge feat of ten wickets in the game – a tall order, considering how much it must have taken out of him.

An Australian victory would be great for the series overall, but they can’t keep relying on their tail to get them out of trouble; captain Michel Clarke (3/1 with Coral to be top scorer for the visitors) and the specialist batters are going to have to step up to the mark.

The disappointing Ed Cowan might well be replaced at number three by Usman Khawaja (7/1). Coral don’t expect lightning to strike twice at Lord’s and make Agar a 25/1 shot to again outscore his teammates.

Written by Jon Freeman