By Stephen Giles
- 3rd Investec Ashes Test at Edgbaston, Birmingham.
- England bring in Bairstow to replace Ballance. Australia likely to be unchanged.
- Series level at 1-1.
BIRMINGHAM, UK – England and Australia head to Edgbaston on Wednesday for the crucial 3rd Investec Ashes Test Match with the series tantalisingly poised at 1-1.
Ten years on from arguably the greatest Test match of all time, the Ashes head to back to Birmingham as England look to rid the memory of last week’s 405-run hammering by getting back on track as the series delicately hangs in the balance.
If the tourists triumph at Edgbaston, even the most ardent cricket fan will tell you that the Ashes urn will be heading back Down Under. It is worth revealing that England have never come from behind to win after losing two Tests in an Ashes series and rather gallingly, they haven’t won a third Ashes Test since some bloke called Michael Jackson topped the charts – in 1981.
Australia will capture the urn comfortably and Alastair Cook’s term as captain will come to an end. Much of the rest of the series will be spent deliberating over his successor, rather than happenings on the field.
But instead of jumping the gun, here in the present, England are not finished yet. They can’t lie-down and accept their fate. Somehow they have to replicate what they hit on in Cardiff. The surprise 169-run victory they produced was certainly no fluke. Repelling Australia, who have their swagger back, will be an extremely tall order, but Edgbaston is a very happy hunting ground for the hosts – having won 24 of the 47 Tests played there, including six of the last 10.
Several days of rain have bombarded the second-city and left the wicket sweating under covers for much of the week. After the sluggish pitches dished up at Cardiff and Lord’s, eager eyes will be on the state of the pitch on Wednesday morning.
With a green tinged pitch expected, it may hold the promise of some early day one seam movement. Yet, it’s easy to forget Edgbaston, statistically, is comfortably the best of England’s regular Test grounds for spin bowling.
So, with this in mind, England may be tempted to hand Adil Rashid his Ashes-debut and play alongside front-line spinner Moeen Ali, as Coach Trevor Bayliss has long pondered. Rashid was in line to play at Lord’s after Ali suffered a minor side strain, only to miss out with a reported cut to his spinning finger. Bayliss said:
“I would like to play two spinners somewhere in this tour, and currently Rashid is thought of as one of the top two spinners in the country,”
ONE ENGLAND CHANGE TO THE SQUAD
The England selectors have admirably made no knee-jerk reactions to last week’s dismal display at Lord’s, making one official change to the squad.
Even in light of the nature of the feeble capitulation at the Home of Cricket, it is a sensible response by the hosts. In all the panic that accompanies any England defeat by the old enemy, it’s easy to overlook the fact that they remain the same group of players who systematically ripped apart the Aussies so remarkably in the First Test.
The one change made – the inclusion of Jonny Bairstow (averaging 100.66 this season) in place of his Yorkshire team-mate Gary Ballance – was predictable given the continuing failure of the top order over the last three months.
With his addition comes a rejigging of the batting order, with Ian Bell – averaging 14.90 with the bat this year – is now charged with the responsibility of batting at number three on his home ground, Joe Root will move up one place to four and Bairstow, rather than Ben Stokes, going in at five.
The selectors could potentially have a seam bowling dilemma. Do they replace the impressive Mark Wood – who looked weary in his second ever Test at Lord’s – with Steve Finn? With Finn’s type of bowling, he is one to excel on lively, bouncy surfaces, however the chances of a pitch resembling that remain slim, but not unlikely.
The microscope will also home in on opener Adam Lyth and of course Bell, both of whom need to score runs to retain their places – it’s as simple as that, and with Nottinghamshire duo Alex Hales and James Taylor – fresh from scoring 291 against Sussex last week – both scoring heavily in County Cricket, both are expected to challenge for their places should they fail once more – especially with the fourth Test coming from Nottingham.
On the Australian side, Chris Rogers has overcome his dizziness that required him to retire hurt in Australia’s second innings at Lord’s, but any final decision on his place will be left until the last possible moment, if he doesn’t make it, Mitchell Marsh is likely to open the batting alongside David Warner.
Peter Nevil is expected to keep his spot behind the stumps ahead of Brad Haddin and Nathan Lyon, who has yet to make an impression on this series thus far, and doubts still linger over his ability to win games on helpful final-day surfaces is under serious threat from leg-spinner Fawad Ahmed, who picked up three Derbyshire wickets in Australia’s pre-test Tour Match and there are a few signs from the Australian camp that he is close to selection.
England’s bowler of the series so far Stuart Broad reaffirmed his confidence that the hosts will be much-improved this week and made it be known that the hosts cannot afford to wallow in self-pity after a damning second Test defeat:
“It’s a huge week. A lot has been written this week about it being the end of the world, like we’re losing 10-0.
“But actually, it’s 1-1. They’ve played fantastically one week, we’ve played fantastically one week. Let battle commence.”
Day One of the 3rd Investec Ashes Test Match begins at 11:00am on Wednesday July 29th. Follow the action with Britwatch Live Scores