By Stephen Giles
- Preview of the Fourth Ashes Test live from Nottingham
- England lead the series 2-1 with two matches to play
- England can win the Ashes with a victory
NOTTINGHAM, UK – The Fourth Ashes Test begins on Thursday with England knowing that victory at Trent Bridge will guarantee them the Ashes urn at the first time of asking.
The rewards really could not be any higher as the action gets underway on Thursday at Trent Bridge with the hosts holding a slender 2-1 advantage and eyeing a fourth successive home Ashes series victory, something that hasn’t been achieved for 115 years.
Given the topsy-turviness of the series so far, making any kind of concerted attempt at a guess of who will prevail would surely be ill-advised.
Seamer James Anderson is out of the match after suffering a side strain during Australia’s second innings on day two at the third Test at Edgbaston.
Mark Wood – who has taken 14 wickets in four matches – is the selector’s preferred choice to take his place should he be fit himself, with England head coach Trevor Bayliss looking for him to share new ball duties with Stuart Broad.
Should Wood suffer any recurring problems in any of the practice sessions before Thursday’s showdown, Liam Plunkett, whose last Test came 12 months ago, and Derbyshire’s uncapped Mark Footitt are on standby.
Left-arm bowler Footitt has taken 50 wickets in the County Championship Second Division so far this term, while Plunkett, who has had an injury disrupted season so far, has taken five wickets in two matches for Yorkshire.
Bayliss is hopeful that Wood will be fit for the fourth Test:
“We’re not really sure about Woody at the moment, but he is improving every day, we are hopeful he will be right for Trent Bridge.”
“You get halfway through a series like this and there are always a few little niggles with batters and bowlers, so it will be good to give those an extra couple of days’ rest.”
The tourists however have seemingly spiralled into despair, we’ve heard this before, however, after the humiliating defeat at Edgbaston, the Aussies are allegedly in the midst of a crisis, with suspicion growing that the squad has become alienated and divided over the treatment of Brad Haddin’s exclusion from the team.
Haddin was granted personal leave tour to oversee a family issue, which gave Peter Nevill the opportunity to stake a claim, he has since come in and flourished, which has allegedly created friction among the squad with many feeling Haddin deserves the opportunity to go out and perform again.
With Nevill possibly cementing his place until the series end, the only real change expected for Australia is that of Shaun Marsh who is likely to replace the disappointing Adam Vogues. Marsh opened the batting on the recent Australian tour of the West Indies and has notched up two centuries on this current tour to date – against Derbyshire and Kent respectively.
With the change comes a subtle re-jigging of the batting order, which may appear defeatist to some but Australia are clearly despairing and require big runs and fast.
Marsh will bat at four while Michael Clarke drops down to his much more favoured number 5 slot – a place where he has averaged 60 for his country, as opposed to 30 at 4.
It is also not beyond the realms of possibility that the Green Caps may look to fine-tune their bowling attack also, after a wayward display – predominately from Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood – in Birmingham, with Nottingham conditions expected to be the same.
The tourists lacked little in the way of control against the England batsman, who found scoring all too easy at Edgbaston.
The inclusion of Peter Siddle, who knows Trent Bridge only too well as a Nottinghamshire player suddenly becomes an attractive option to have. His know-how at making a concerted effort to dry up runs is effective and just what Australia require.
Replacing their top wicket-taker in Hazlewood rather than Starc is one call the Aussie selectors will have to make and hope it pays dividends, or they could stick go with the safe option and go with what they have, in the hope that their batsmen finally decide to score a bucket full of runs.
The toss will be a crucial toss to win if the pattern of how the series is shaping up is anything to go on. Whoever dominates the first day invariably triumphs.
In the First Test, England were on top with 343-7 at the close, Australia were 337-1 at Lord’s and in Birmingham, the hosts were 133-3 in reply to Australia’s 136 all out.
There does appear to be no way back after a bad first day, so who ever wins the toss at Trent Bridge on Thursday could go a long way into deciding who wins the Ashes urn.
The Investec Ashes 4th Test match begins at 11am, Thursday 6th August – Follow via the Britwatch Live Score Service.