England remain calm as excitement builds for Lord's
The home side opted against bulk changes as they aim to level the series at Lord's
11 August 2019, 07:57 PM AEST
Panic might have been the natural reaction after Australia’s crushing 251-run victory in Birmingham, yet England’s selectors held their nerve when they named their squad for the second Ashes Test at Lord’s last Friday.
Just two changes were made for a match that Joe Root’s team simply must win if they are to get back in the series.
Anything less and Australia will be well on course for a first away Ashes series success since 2001.
One of those changes was enforced – Jimmy Anderson ruled out with the calf injury that struck him down early on the first day of the opening Test at Edgbaston. Fast bowler Jofra Archer has replaced him.
Moeen Ali was also dropped after a horror run of form. Jack Leach, the Somerset left-arm spinner, has come into the squad for the out-of-sorts allrounder.
Given the team’s performance at Edgbaston, England could have made more changes if they were being really ruthless.
Joe Denly, the No.4 batsman who averages just 21.75 in Tests, is lucky to get another chance. Both Jos Buttler and Jonny Bairstow also look mentally shot after their World Cup heroics.
Will the 10-day gap between Edgbaston and Lord’s allow that pair to reset and come back stronger for this must-win match for their team? We’ll find out this week.
However, England also know that they did a lot of things very well in Birmingham last week and, in truth, only one man really cost them the match – Steve Smith.
Without the former Australia captain’s twin hundreds, England would most likely have won the opening Test despite the hammer blow of losing Anderson so early on. That’s why panic has not set in just yet.
Indeed, the inclusion of Archer has given England a rather different emotion ahead of Lord’s – excitement.
The 24-year-old was one of the stars of the World Cup and he returns to the scene of his greatest triumph this week as he prepares to make his Test debut.
Lord’s, of course, was the stage where he bowled the decisive Super Over in last month’s thrilling tied World Cup final against New Zealand.
The nerve shown by Archer then was impressive. He will need that composure again this week when he gets his first taste of Ashes cricket.
Archer is the player England hope will define this series. If he can provide the answer as to how to get Smith out then that will go a long way to helping Root and his players become the first team to come from behind and win an Ashes series since 2005.
Leach, too, is a man who might have a big impact given Smith’s relative 'weakness' against left-arm spin. The Australian’s average drops to 34 against that type of bowling, although it’s fair to say that is probably mainly down to facing bowlers of a higher quality than Leach in Asian conditions.
Still, it will be interesting to see how Leach does at Lord’s, the ground where he hit a magnificent 92 as a night-watchman in the one-off Test against Ireland last month.
That match sparked much debate about a pitch Root called out as “sub-standard” in the aftermath.
England had been bowled out for 85 on the first morning. Ireland were routed for 38 on the final day, with Chris Woakes and Stuart Broad sharing all 10 second-innings wickets.
That pair will again open the bowling this week and after their success at Edgbaston, where they did so much damage with the new ball on the first day, and they will be key to England’s chances at Lord’s.
Whether the surface prepared for this match will help England or not remains to be seen.
Root’s very public complaints about the spicy pitch for the Ireland Test may have prompted head groundsman Karl McDermott to produce something a little flatter.
Yet the vagaries of preparing a surface in the unpredictable British weather and the inexperience of McDermott, who is in his first summer as curator at Lord’s, means what actually gets served up is anybody’s guess.
There are hopes within the England camp that the pitch is a green top that helps their cause – after all what’s the point of home advantage if you don’t actually use it?
However, whatever the conditions, Root knows his team must come up with a far better all-round display than they did in Birmingham if they are to win at Lord’s.
2019 Qantas Ashes Tour of England
Australia squad: Tim Paine (c), Cameron Bancroft, Pat Cummins, Marcus Harris, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Michael Neser, James Pattinson, Peter Siddle, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Matthew Wade, David Warner.
England squad: Joe Root (c), Jofra Archer, Jonny Bairstow, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Jos Buttler, Sam Curran, Joe Denly, Jack Leach, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes (vc), Chris Woakes.
First Test: Australia beat England by 251 runs at Edgbaston
Second Test: August 14-18,Lord's
Third Test: August 22-26, Headingley
Tour match: Australians v Derbyshire, August 29-31
Fourth Test: September 4-8, Old Trafford
Fifth Test: September 12-16, The Oval