Can Australia fight back at Lord’s?
The Ashes got off to the worst possible start for the highly fancied Aussies with a humbling 169-run defeat in the first Ashes test in Cardiff.
The tourists will be looking to turn their fortunes around in the second test at Lord’s and emulate the feats of the 1997 touring side who came from one test down to claim the famous urn.
Australia has been forced into a couple of changes, with Brad Haddin withdrawing for personal reasons, handing Peter Nevill a test debut, while perennial LBW reviewer Shane Watson has made way for Mitch Marsh.
Although warranted, the decision to leave out Watson is an interesting one. Yes his form hasn’t set the world on fire but taking out his experience leaves a gaping hole in Australia’s middle order. Between Adam Voges, Marsh and Nevill are a combined seven tests, hardly enough to strike fear into the confident Poms.
Marsh’s inclusion, however, sees an in-form player get an opportunity to make the all-rounder’s spot his own. His aggressive, take the game on style and play without fear attitude exemplifies the way Australia play under coach Darren Lehmann. He scored two centuries in the warm-up matches with 101 against Essex and 169 versus Kent and the Australian faithful will be hoping he can continue that form at the home of cricket.
For the inexperienced middle order trio to succeed, they need the top four to do the ‘heavy lifting’. Starts for David Warner, Chris Rogers, Steve Smith and Michael Clarke will not suffice in this test; they have to lead the way with big scores. They will have to bat with more patience and absorb more pressure from the likes of Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad.
There are question marks over the fitness of Mitchell Starc, with the left arm quick still recovering from an ankle injure suffered in the first test. He is expected to play but Peter Siddle will be ready to go if Starc is ruled out.
The retirement of Ryan Harris was telling in Cardiff as the Aussies lacked the required consistency with the ball. England plundered the visitor’s attack, scoring at over four runs per over in both their innings. For Australia to be any chance in this match they have to build pressure with the ball. Another failure to deliver and I’d expect to see Siddle play the third test.
The morning sessions on days two and three set up England’s 122-run first innings lead in the first test, while the second session on day four compounded the misery for the Michael Clarke’s men. Taking advantage of the key moments is a must if Australia is to level the series at 1-1.