Two games, one win each, all to play for. After England’s rapid start in Cardiff, Australia struck back in vintage style with a wide margin Lord’s in that has seen changes in England’s top order, an emergence of potential gamechangers for Australia and also bought out the buzzword of momentum, that ever important factor in all sport never more so than cricket, we’re told.
The manner of the Lord’s defeat has bought out many of the doom mongers but for all that it was a pummelling defeat on several levels, it was just that, a defeat. It’s worth remembering that England were just as dominant in Cardiff to start the series and after two tests the scores are level.
The pitch at Lord’s was flatter than a Dutch motorway, which helped Australia massively as Chris Rodgers and Steve Smith set up an advantage that Australia never relinquished when batting for more than a whole day and when England stepped out to bat the extra pace and bounce of Mitchell Johnson especially amongst Australia’s attack proved to be the crucial difference.
In response to the defeat – England’s fourth heaviest in tests of all time – the market has reset itself to the pre series state, with England a big a 4-1 to take the urn and Australia as short as 4-9, both prices that look to be vast overreactions given that the two sides have not faced eachother at their best.
England have also made changes to a top order which wasn’t saved by their long batting lineup or bowling with Gary Balance’s footwork too much of an issue and Jonny Bairstow – in the form of his life – drafted in as replacement. Bairstow has five centuries and a average of over 100, following on from his 83 in the last ODI against New Zealand at Chester Le Street, and adds yet more bolter and aggression to the top order.
Ian Bell and Joe Root are moved to four and three respectively – Bell’s best position in the eyes of many, or at least where he has scored some of his biggest knocks – while Joe Root will be called in a No.4 for his duties.
After top order situations of 34, 52, 18, 18, 30, 43, 30, and 43 for the loss of the third wicket it remains to be seen if Cook and Lyth can rediscover their best form with Cook making a century at Lord’s in the first innings before succumbing for 11 in the second innings, continuing the poor start to the series with the bat.
In the bowling ranks Mark Wood’s fitness is still up for debate with Steven Finn – looking much more like the player of old following a reconstruction of his bowling action – a possible to tke his place.
Australia could have been facing the uncomfortable position of being without Chris Rogers to start this test but thankfully he’s showing no signs of dizziness following a savage blow at Lord’s while Mitchell Marsh has underlined his test place at Derby with runs and wickets; Peter Nevill will also keep wicket once again ahead of Brad Haddin.
Following the debacle of the Lord’s surface, Alistair Cook has called for a ‘proper English’ wicket which will offer more assistance to the bowlers and we can expect pace and bounce off the surface here. This will help England greatly but is no less useful for Australia either with Johnson, Hazelwood and Anderson in fine form.
Australia will have their backers after the Lord’s trashing but the series so far does not look like rock solid form and the toss bias at Edgebaston – eight of the last 12 results have been won by the side that won the toss – makes betting uncomfortable on the result.
With cloud around (showers predicted) on the first day the side bowling first would be at an advantage and the call is probably to back the team that winds the toss, but there may be value to be found in the player performance markets again.
Ben Stokes has made a half century in each of his two tests so far and will have pace and bounce assistance from the pitch while avoiding the new ball; It’ not overly optimistic to see him gaining more than 111 point for the third test in a row. For Australia, the wickets are hared around but maybe Josh Hazelwood can come out on top with the natural wing more in tune with his game rather than that of Mitchell’s Marsh or Johnson. Mitchell Starc too is a big threat.
2 pt Ben Stokes to make more than 111 performance points (5/6 Bet365)
1 pt Josh Hazelwood top Australian first innings bowler (3/1 general)