After the dramatic highs of the World Cup, the expectation was there for England to transfer the winning feeling from the 50 over format into test cricket. For the first two days of the First Ashes Test, it seemed to be going well. The ball was moving, Aussie wickets were tumbling, and some dogged batting gave Joe Roots’ men a 90+ run lead.
As we all know, England’s blunted bowling attack wilted in the sun. Australia piled on the runs and set the hosts a virtually impossible 398 runs to win the first test. A sorry display with the bat on the fifth morning saw England bowled out for just 146, with the inquiry starting almost as soon as Chris Woakes edged behind.
The early injury to James Anderson is one which England never truly recovered from. Effectively, England were at full strength for less than five overs. It is something which could have been avoided through proper conversation between Anderson and the England background staff. Anderson may have been fully fit to start the test, with nothing more than hard luck plaguing him.
Alternatively, it perhaps could have been down to an experienced player to decide to not play. Anderson’s apology in the aftermath of his injury makes you think it is more of the latter.
Whether Anderson was fit for the second test or not, changes were needed. The pressure was on Moeen Ali before a ball was even bowled. Despite a spirited display with the ball, Ali failed to trouble the scorers too much. He is not the only English batsmen out of nick, even the most optimistic of England fan can admit that, but his days in the side were numbered.
It is beneficial for both England and Ali that the Worcestershire man goes back to county cricket to regain the sort of form which got him into the side in the first place.
Making as few changes as possible is important. That is potentially why England have only made two for the Lords test. Jack Leach has come in as the spin option to replace Ali and although he will be the last man into bat, he has shown this summer what he can do with the bat. His 90 in the only test against Ireland as night-watchman means that even England’s number 11 in the second ashes test will have recent good form. Not to mention Leach brings genuine spin into the team, something which England have been lacking in the last few years.
James Andersons replacement almost picked itself. Jofra Archer was hit with his own injury in the lead up to the series opener, but wickets and runs in a second’s game for Sussex means that Archer’s express pace will be leading the line for England. The pool of English fast bowlers is deep now, with two top bowlers in Archer and Curran going head to head for a place in the side. it’s the best kind of selection headache for England.
England need to bounce back after the demolition at Edgbaston on a ground which finished in a 405-run defeat the last time the sides met in 2015. Steven Smith scored a double century on that occasion and he won’t need an invitation to pick up where he left off at Edgbaston this time around. Two centuries in Birmingham has the former Aussie captain hungry for more runs.
There will be a lot of pressure on many players in the home dressing room at Lords next week, with Jonny Bairstow and Joe Denly being two of a fragile looking batting line-up determined to get some runs on the board. It will be tough, but these two plus others can take heart from the dogged century scored by Rory Burns.
That is what I will leave you with here, England’s batsmen need ugly runs. Trying to emulate an inform Steven Smith is not the way to go, he is in form and scoring runs looks a lot easier when things are going your way. A scrappy but determined 50 or ton here and there will do wonders for the mentality of those batsmen out of form.
It is vital that England pull level at Lords next week. Going into the third test at Headingly 2–0 down would be a setback which I don’t think this England squad has the strength to come back from. Not for the first time in Ashes history, the entire series could hinge on the second test match. the Home of cricket needs to come good for Joe Roots men.