Captains Cook and Clarke speak out ahead of third Ashes Test
The third Ashes Test at Edgbaston is almost upon us, and ahead of the crunch clash both England (3/1 to win with Coral) and Australia (5/6) captains Alastair Cook and Michael Clarke have given their thoughts and squad selection updates.
Hosts’ skipper Cook spoke first, and is confident that his side can bite back following their dismal 405-run loss at Lord’s which levelled the series to 1-1.
“Lord’s was a tough four days, especially after Cardiff where we played so well,” the opener said. “But the mood in the camp is fantastic and the lads are talking about the opportunity we have in front of us now.”
On England’s recent top order troubles and subsequent starting XI replacement, he added: “We have found ourselves over the last six months three wickets down early on too many occasions. So we’ve had a re-jig. It is tough for Gary Ballance but he will be back.
“Congratulations to Jonny Bairstow (11/2 to be best England batsman in the first innings) but he has knocked the door down with his performances for Yorkshire. His average is almost 100 which is fantastic at any level.”
There were reports that Durham fast bowler Mark Wood could miss the third Test due to an ankle injury. “We are a little concerned about Woodie,” Cook said. “With the weather he couldn’t bowl outside, we’ll have to make a call on him tomorrow.
“If he is out, then with the forecast, then probably Steven Finn will be pushing to play. Finn has bowled really well for Middlesex recently so whoever gets the call will be the lucky one.”
On under-pressure batsmen Ian Bell (9/2) and Adam Lyth (11/2), Cook added: “The idea of the top order is to lay a platform and put miles in the bowlers’ legs – that’s what we must try to do. Adam Lyth has to play the way he does for Yorkshire, stay true to his game. Belly has scored more than 7,000 runs for England, not many have done that so he has to remember that.”
Clarke, meanwhile, opened up on his decision to retain Peter Nevill as his wicketkeeper, after his record breaking number of catches (seven) on debut in the Ashes, ahead of veteran Brad Haddin.
“I’d like to see the wicket and how everyone pulled up before yesterday’s training before the team gets announced,” says Clarke. “But Nevill will play. Hadds is keen to continue to play cricket for Australia.”
Batsman Clarke gave words on opener Chris Rogers (9/2 to be top Aussie batsman in the first innings), who had to retire hurt on 49 last time out due to dizziness after being hit on the head.
“I’ve not seen Chris Rogers today but he batted really well yesterday in the nets and looked comfortable,” he said. “We’ll see how he is today.”
On stopping England’s in-form star, Clarke added. “Jonny Bairstow is a very good player. He is attacking and likes to play his shots. He has performed well in county cricket. We’ve looked at footage in the lead-up to this match.
“We know where we have to bowl and we have to put it there. If he gets on top he is very aggressive but I would hope the attack he is about to face is a little bit different to county cricket.”
Clarke went against the usual mind games before an Ashes match in attempt to put further pressure on out-of-form players, as he said on Bell: “He’s a great fella and a hell of a player who has been very successful for England over a long period of time. Even if he doesn’t score more runs in this Test I think he’ll be an England players for a long time to come. I hope he goes on to make many hundreds but just after this series.
“I don’t think it will bother Bell moving to three, certainly on his own ground. Lyth might feel more pressure because he hasn’t played as much cricket. It’s not about targeting certain players, though, it is just about bowling as well as we can and sticking to our plans. I think you’ll see plenty of wickets fall from both teams judging by how green the wicket is at the moment.”