What England must do to stop Aussie momentum for 3rd Ashes Test
As usual, England fans have been put through a moment of high (in the first Ashes Test in Cardiff), before a dramatic low at Lord’s after Australia absolutely destroyed the hosts by 405 runs.
However, despite this, the scores are level after the first two matches, although as things stand the Baggy Greens would retain the famous urn.
But what do England (11/4 to win the third Test at Edgbaston) need to do in order to stop a clearly in-form and confident side and boost their own spirits in the process?
Some have called for a mass clearout of out-of-form players, with a number of batters at the top order continuing to fall fast and bowlers being ineffective.
By dropping so many, though, it could cause more harm than good as chopping and changing could cause squad unrest.
The likes of Yorkshire duo Gary Ballance and opener Adam Lyth, as well as veteran Ian Bell, are all under the microscope in the batting department, as collectively they managed just two 50s (the former and latter).
Together, the trio have managed 221 runs from their first four innings across the two Test so far, which is just six more than Australian star Steve Smith’s 215 hit in his first innings at Lord’s.
That is simply not good enough, but it might not be wise to drop recent Lyth and Ballance at this point as they are still finding their feet on the Test arena. Plus fans are quick to forget the former’s century at Headingley against New Zealand and the latter’s impressive 50-plus average to date.
Therefore, the one man that should finally be dropped is Bell, as the 33-year-old has managed just one half century in his last 12 Test innings, with seven of those being out for 1 or less.
So, in order to beef up the top order – the average partnership for the first three wickets since 2013 is 33.3 – it might be an idea to push England’s best batsman by far Joe Root up to number three and find a replacement for Bell.
Legendary former Australian skipper and number three Ricky Ponting certainly thinks so. “He was a county opening batsman when he was picked for England,” he said on Root. “He would have a technique that would stand up to No 3 in international cricket.
“It’s what’s best for the team. Australia probably had a similar situation over the last three or four years with Michael Clarke – he predominantly batted at No 5. I know that, when I was captain, I moved him up to No 4 because I knew that was his natural progression to move higher up the order.
“When he became captain he didn’t have a good run at No 4 so moved himself back down and had a great couple of seasons. So there are certain players who are suited to certain positions.”
With that in mind, Ballance would need to be shifted to four or five, though he has only played in the latter position for England once.
His Yorkshire teammate wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow should be the man to replace Bell as a batsman, after his impressive recent form.
Bairstow has yet to really impress for England on the Test scene, with a top score of 95 and 26.95 average from his 14 matches. However, he has certainly kicked on for his county, and he recently helped his country to win a recent ODI series against the Kiwis after his super unbeaten hit of 83.
For Yorkshire, he only just recorded a smashing County Championship 139 off 183 balls against Worcestershire batting at number five, and could potentially do a job there for England too in the 3rd Test at Edgbaston.
Meanwhile, in the bowling department, Stuart Broad has impressed most, as he usually does in Ashes series, but his partner in crime James Anderson will need to improve after taking just three wickets to so far.
It is almost certain that Anderson will keep his place, but there may be a switch for Mark Wood, with the likes of Mark Footitt, Steven Finn and Liam Plunkett waiting in the wings. Left armers, Mitchell Johnson and Mitchell Starc, for the Aussies in particular have caused problems for the hosts this series, so Derbyshire’s Footitt could get his debut.
In the spinning department, meanwhile, Moeen Ali’s place should be safe after being steady with both bat and bowl, but fellow all-rounder Adil Rashid will be waiting to pounce on any slip-up.
New England coach Trevor Bayliss certainly gave a brutal assessment of his side’s display, saying: “It was pants down and backsides smacked. We were outplayed in this game. It’s never a great start when they’re 300-1 and we were always chasing the game from there.”
The Australian did not rule out changes either, and added: “It’s on the mind of anyone when the team is not playing like you would like. Those things are always in the back of the coach’s and selectors’ minds.
“There are some good players on the outside and we’ve got a selection meeting. I’m not going to speculate on what exactly will happen until Tuesday.” Before strongly hinting: “Every innings we’ve been 4-30 or 4-40… I suppose that’s always a concern.”
England are now 7/2 shouts to win the series, while a draw (11/2) will be enough for 4/9 odds-on favourites Australia to hold on to the Ashes. The victors are 10/11 to triumph at Edgbaston, meanwhile.