This is the test that every player wants to play in. English or Australian you dream of it as a child and you see yourself taking the winning wicket or hitting the winning run on the hallowed turf of the home of cricket.
They have had the warm up test and England have triumphed in Wales, now they will be desperate to return to “Fortress Lords” as it used to be. This is, whatever any other ground says, England home fixture and they will be trying to defend it with everything they have.
Problem is, England don’t need to create more pressure on themselves. Since they have started playing with a more care free, aggressive attitude, they have triumphed and everyone is benefiting. Even the press have got off their backs and interestingly for the first time in 20 years the Australina press are on the back of their team. The furore surrounding Shane Watson and the public sacking of him is akin to something we normally see here. I think we can take it that Watson wont play although I’m not sure that changes the game in any way.
I can’t deny that we were very bullish about Australia before the first test and it has been a lot of soul searching to work out why we got it so wrong and how we lost so much. I think it boils down to this going in to Lords – and as I see it we can learn and benefit now from our mistakes.
1. On a wicket like Cardiff the pace and bounce of Mitchell Stark and Mitchell Johnston (why have they got the same name – have they run out of names in Australia) was completely nullified. In fact Johnston’s performance in the UK to date in his career is poor. He doesn’t look a match winner under our conditions and Stark can not be completely recovered after his injury of the first test so perhaps that much vaunted pace attack is being carried by Josh Hazlewood, who I think is very good.
2. Smith’s run is over? – he had it good for a long time but he simply cant get away with such poor foot movement over here when the ball moves off the straight. Surely I will pay for that statement He has made all their runs for them and the rest of them are just sloggers – Maybe, just maybe England’s batting line-up, under our conditions are simply better and more reliable than theirs? Massive theory I know but give it some thought. If it’s right we have some thinking to do and we might just get there before the crowd.
3. Neither team has a match winning spinner – although that might change if Moen cant play and Rashid does, so a slower wicket again helps England.
4. Will the ball swing – it didnt in Cardiff, might it do at Lords? Forecast doesn’t look like it will. If it does, again we could argue that without bounce and pace England’s bowlers are the equal if not better at swinging the ball and England’s batters may cope better than the Aussies with the swinging ball.Word has it that if he wins the toss Cooke wants to bat, again. It was nearly his undoing in Cardiff I guess it is all wicket dependent.
So why am I writing all this. Mainly because I have some deep scars from what I am about to write and that is that I think England will win again – or should I say they wont lose. Why do I say they wont lose because I genuinely don’t think this will be the same pitch after England have won a test as it would have been if they were one down and its a pitch that I think suits the home team. If i am wrong then all of this means nothing. If groundsman Mich Hunt prepares a green seamer then he needs sacking and we will lose.
However at the moment, things just seem to be going England’s way. Root dropped when they could have been four for spit and all out 125 in the first innings. Stark getting injured (same thing happened when McGrath stood on the ball at Edgbaston). I also think Moen Ali’s injury is a blessing and as well as he played the forced replacement of him with Rashid is a positive bonus on a slower wicket. Watson’s replacement, March is a good player but I dont think he has the discipline to win a test for his country yet.The press pressure on the Aussies who all think they should blast through England as they are rubbish.
So as hard as it is to write it we have to back England.