5 August 2015
4th Ashes Test Preview
Firstly let us say what an enthralling series it has been, yes it might not have had the quality of the 2005 series but it has certainly had drama in abundance, From England starting strong in Cardiff to the Aussies fighting back at the Home of Cricket, to the decimation of Aussie cricket a few days later at Edgbaston. This is turning out to be one of the hardest series to predict. We are going to analyse the key areas for the 4th Test at Trent Bridge which gets under way tomorrow (Thursday 6th).
Top Order Batsmen
Being patriotic, I will start with my countrymen. Although Alastair Cook hasn’t got the runs that his form has shown this summer, he definitely is hitting the ball well and to us is due a big score. He has been unlucky with some of his dismissals (especially in the last Test where in the first innings he was caught in the jumper of short leg and second innings by a fantastic swinging full ball). However his partner, Lyth seems to be getting out flailing at the ball wide outside of his off stump and seems to be struggling in an Ashes situation. Fortunately England were so dominant in the last Test that his form almost got overlooked by selectors and he has been given another chance. At number three, Ian Bell came into the previous Test short of confidence and form but the way he played with his elegance of shot making and scoring backward of point showed the Aussies ineptness of bowling too short and wide. These three are crucial to set the foundation for the rest of the team.
The Aussies arguably have the strongest top three in world cricket; Rogers always seems to get runs and has a steely edge about him, even though he struggled in the last Test to LBW by Broad going around the wicket. Warner showed his class in his last innings with a sparkling 77 but often only does it in the second innings but has the ability to take the game away from the opposition in a couple of hours. While Steve Smith (best batsmen in world cricket) has all of the shots even though he is vulnerable to the ball outside off stump in a 4th or 5th stump position. The key to all three is to not offer width to any of these batsmen as they will be quick to punish. Something Steven Finn did especially well to Smith in the previous Test.
England have their main man Joe Root at four and he plays with positivity and a smile that will annoy any opposition captain. Bairstow looks in good form for Yorkshire and England in ODI cricket even though he got a snorter from Mitchell Johnson in his only innings. Finally, Ben Stokes who has the ability to get runs and dominate the bowlers, but does seem to have a knack of either getting a duck or 50+. If he can get the latter, England will be in a strong position with the bat.
Australia have had their captain “Pup” batting at four but it looks like the injuries over the last year or two seem to be having an effect on his batting as he is been getting out in a very cheap manner throughout the series. Lehman, the coach isn’t afraid to make big decisions and with Voges who’s been struggling at five it is the time to put Shaun Marsh at four for stability in the middle order and put Clarke in at five where he has his best record. This gives more balance to their lineup with the dangerous Mitchell Marsh at number six with his handy batting and ability to get wickets with his bowling.
In the last few Ashes series, lower order runs especially from keepers have been crucial as they can change the momentum of the game. Jos Buttler has definitely improved his keeping and he took a fantastic catch to dismiss Peter Nevill at a crucial time in the second Test. However he does seem to be struggling with the bat and although he started his Test career very well with a number of scintillating half centuries, he has been woefully out of form and has seemed a bit too nice when batting failing to review his dismissal in the previous Test (even though Hawkeye showed it was going over the stumps) and walking in the second Test.
Many were shocked with Boof’s decision to drop Haddin the man who has so often been the destroyer to England with lower order runs to take the momentum away when England looked on top especially in the first test at The Gabba in the last series. He has also been fantastic behind the stumps however Nevill certainly proved his strengths in the last Test with good solid glove work and fantastic aptitude with the bat, as he was the only batsmen to face over 120 balls in an innings. He definitely gained confidence from his coach’s decision to stick with him.
Unfortunately Jimmy is injured and will miss playing on one of his favourite test match grounds. This means so long as Mark Wood is fit, he will more than likely come in to the team. The problem is Wood has had a number of injuries and will have to be 100% to play, as Test matches are emotionally and physically draining. Before missing out in the previous Test, he showed a raw pace and had some very good spells of bowling but is no Jimmy Anderson. This puts increasing pressure as England will need 20 wickets to win and you worry where they might come from. Stuart Broad is bowling in fantastic rhythm and will more than likely get his 300th Test match wicket. Steven Finn was magnificent in the last Test match and when on song has all the attributes to be one of the best pace bowlers around. We remember watching him in the nets on Christmas Day in Melbourne in 2013 and he was struggling to get the ball down. The transformation in rebuilding his confidence will stand England in good stead. In terms of spin, Moeen Ali has a knack of getting the odd crucial wicket and has been more than handy with the bat. Second English No eight batsmen to get two half centuries in an Ashes series. The first was Stuart Broad in 2009. To complete England’s five front line bowlers is Stokesy, he has the aggression and passion and in the field sets the tone. He might not have got the wickets he did in the last Ashes series but did seem to be in a decent groove when bowled in the last match. If he bowls in the same manner, we are sure he will pick up a few more wickets.
Australia when firing have fantastic options in the pace bowling department but the front line three were all a little out of sorts. However we have seen all the bowlers bowl well in spells throughout the series. Mitchell Starc was more effective with bat in the last match than with the bowl as he lost his control but has the ability to bowl quickly and move the ball late just like he did for Cook at Edgbaston. Siddle, one of the backup bowlers of the squad so far adds more control to the bowling and adds experience in pressure situations and would be a straight change with Starc. Hazlewood also struggled at Edgbaston (going at almost five an over in the first innings) but has the knack like a certain Mr Mcgrath and Mr Harris when in form to probe that top of off stump line. Mitchell Johnson, what more to say. When on song (not the English fans version) he is a menace and causes fear in the best batsmen shown by his nasty short balls that dismissed Bairstow and Stokes, but when things go off kilter they seem to fall apart. He does however seem mentally much stronger than previous times he has toured these shores and I will expect him to be a nuisance to the England batsmen. The trio of Mitchells is completed by Marsh and he has shown he can bowl very tidy in the early 80’s and has an ability of picking up one or two crucial wickets as well as being one for the future. To finish, the best performer so far with the ball has been Nathan Lyon with his off spin who has bowled superbly throughout with bounce and spin from his top spin action causing problems turning away from the left handers and around the wicket to the right handers.
We might not be a Michael Fish but here is the weather forecast for the test match in Nottingham.
Day 1 | A brief morning shower with a high of 21°
Day 2 | Partly sunny with a high of 20°
Day 3 | Partly sunny with a high of 21°
Day 4 | Nice with partial sunshine with a high of 23°
Day 5 | Nice with plenty of sunshine with a high of 21°