England to keep faith with Ashes battlers

06 December 2017
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Head coach Trevor Bayliss says Woakes and Overton showed the fire needed while backing maligned batsmen to come good in Perth

About the Writer:

Chris Stocks is a freelance cricket writer based in London. He is a regular contributor to the Guardian, Daily Mail, Independent and London Evening Standard.

Despite ultimately failing in their quest to pull off what would have been one of the greatest Ashes wins of all-time, England look set to keep faith with the same XI who lost in Adelaide for next week's third Test in Perth.

Steve Smith and his Australian team will be confident of wrapping up the victory they need to regain the urn at the WACA – a ground where England have not won since 1978 – after their 120-run win in the second Test saw them take a 2-0 lead in this Magellan Ashes series.

Match wrap: Australia win topsy-turvy second Test

However, the tourists will not be panicked into making changes for Perth after they displayed encouraging signs in coming back to push Australia closer than anyone expected in Adelaide.

That, of course, cannot mask the paucity of their performance for the majority of the first three days.

But the promise shown by Chris Woakes, whose 4-36 helped restrict Australia to 138 in their second innings, and Craig Overton, who had a fine debut in which he contributed positively with bat, ball and in the field, means Trevor Bayliss, England's Australian coach, wants to stick with the same players for Perth.

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"I can't see any reason to change the team for the next Test," England's Australian-born coach said.

"Woakes bowled well, as did the two experienced bowlers (Stuart Broad and James Anderson).

"I thought Overton bowled extremely well. He batted and fielded well too. He has a bit of fire in his belly which I like. Everyone has showed they have a bit of fight, they need to find it for longer.

"We have competed in both Test matches for two of the four or five days, on an even keel or possibly even better, having such good periods that we are on top."

One area of real concern for England is their batting, with only an out-of-form Alastair Cook, captain Joe Root and Moeen Ali of the top six having scored Test centuries.

Root posts fifty but falls early on day five

Opener Mark Stoneman, unconvincing No.3 James Vince and Dawid Malan have all scored half-centuries.

But the lack of experience – and in Vince's case perhaps mental aptitude to cope with Test cricket – does not bode well ahead of the remaining three Tests.

Watch all 10 England wickets to fall

Bayliss, though, believes all three will come good.

"To me it's exciting that we have these blokes," he said. "They are good enough to make Test hundreds. We are certainly not going to give up and go home, we've got three more Tests.

"They have scored 30s, 40s, 50s. If you have made a fifty, which they have, you've just got to do it again.

"Why can't they score a 50 without any trouble, showing that you handle the pressure and play at this level, it's about going through that ceiling and doing it twice.

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"Think to yourself, 'I have 50, do it again, keep playing straight, keep playing my game'.

"Someone like Mark Stoneman, it's a bit of a gut feel. Ask the guys who have played a lot of international cricket, everyone says Stoneman looks the part, he is that tough little nuggety opener that we have seen so much of.

"When the bad ball comes, he puts it away. In the long run that doesn't make a career. No one really knows exactly what can click and if it would happen."

England's defeat in Adelaide – and their terrible record in Perth – has raised the spectre of another 5-0 Ashes whitewash to match those of 2006-07 and 2013-14.

However, Bayliss does not see this series going the same way – chiefly because he believes Australia are vulnerable.

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"You never want to lose 1-0 let along 5-0," he said. "If we keep playing the way we are, I think there's enough frailties in the Australian team, and our guys have seen enough in them, that we can exploit that.

"Where they have been better than us, Nathan Lyon has been outstanding, and they have had guys score hundreds. They are certainly beatable."

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What frailties does he think his team can exploit though? Steve Smith scored a hundred and Shaun Marsh batted well for one too.

"The other guys haven't been scoring hundreds," Bayliss said. "They have been in the same categories as us – 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s. We are getting confident that we have a better idea of where to bowl to them."

If this all sounds like clutching at straws then you are probably right. Winning at least one Test is not beyond England, certainly in Melbourne or Sydney. But in Perth? That seems unlikely and, from an English perspective, the hope of retaining the Ashes already seems a forlorn one.

2017-18 International Fixtures

Magellan Ashes Series

Australia Test squad: Steve Smith (c), David Warner (vc), Cameron Bancroft, Usman Khawaja, Peter Handscomb, Shaun Marsh, Mitchell Marsh, Tim Paine (wk), Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood, Jackson Bird.

England Test squad: Joe Root (c), James Anderson (vc), Moeen Ali, Jonny Bairstow, Jake Ball, Gary Ballance, Stuart Broad, Alastair Cook, Mason Crane, Tom Curran, Ben Foakes, Dawid Malan, Craig Overton, Ben Stokes, Mark Stoneman, James Vince, Chris Woakes.

First Test Australia won by 10 wickets. Scorecard

Second Test Australia won by 120 runs (Day-Night). Scorecard

Third Test WACA Ground, December 14-18. Tickets

Fourth Test MCG, December 26-30. Tickets

Fifth Test SCG, January 4-8 (Pink Test). Tickets

Gillette ODI Series v England

First ODI MCG, January 14. Tickets

Second ODI Gabba, January 19. Tickets

Third ODI SCG, January 21. Tickets

Fourth ODI Adelaide Oval, January 26. Tickets

Fifth ODI Perth Stadium, January 28. Tickets

Prime Minister's XI

PM's XI v England Manuka Oval, February 2. Tickets

Gillette T20 trans-Tasman Tri-Series

First T20I Australia v NZ, SCG, February 3. Tickets

Second T20I – Australia v England, Blundstone Arena, February 7. Tickets

Third T20I – Australia v England, MCG, February 10. Tickets

Fourth T20I – NZ v England, Wellington, February 14

Fifth T20I – NZ v Australia, Eden Park, February 16

Sixth T20I – NZ v England, Seddon Park, February 18

Final – TBC, Eden Park, February 21