Lord's work has Langer in silent contemplation
Australia coach knows his final XI for second Test but is keeping it under wraps as the mind games step up ahead of action resuming
Andrew Ramsey at Lord's
13 August 2019, 07:58 AM AEST
Australia have adapted the truism to "look up, not down when you come to Lord's" to ensure they also look ahead when they name their playing XI for the second Ashes Test starting Wednesday.
The oft-quoted aphorism refers to the impact that London's low cloud or lack thereof can have on the manner in which the ball behaves at Lord's.
But Australia men's team coach Justin Langer has confirmed that he and his fellow selectors will also have half an eye fixed on the third Test (in Leeds) and fourth (in Manchester) before the series concludes in London in mid-September.
It represents a punishing schedule with four Tests and a three-day tour game (against Derbyshire, August 29-31) squeezed into less than five weeks.
Langer declined to nominate Australia's line-up for the second Test when he fronted a media conference at Lord's on Monday, suggesting that – even though it had been decided – he wanted to "keep England guessing as long as we can."
But he also confirmed that the unforgiving itinerary, a product of the UK having already hosted a two-month men's World Cup tournament earlier in the summer, is a crucial factor in managing personnel.
Which, in turn, might tempt the panel to keep long-time Test new-ball pairing Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc on ice and ready to be unleashed in the back half of the series, when others might be flagging.
"You've got to get through back-to-back Test matches, that's why Test series are hard, Ashes series are hard," Langer said, citing the three-day turnaround between the upcoming Test at Lord's and the third at Headingley.
🇦🇺 squad @HomeOfCricket #Ashes pic.twitter.com/qDlqAkfDGj— cricket.com.au (@cricketcomau) August 12, 2019
"Where we're fortunate at the moment is we've got six fit and healthy fast bowlers.
"I've been coaching for about ten years now, and I can't ever remember having that luxury, but that could change so we're not getting carried away with it.
"The fact that we had Josh (Hazlewood) and Mitch Starc on the bench last Test match, it doesn't happen very often so we won't get complacent with it, we'll just be happy we're in that spot."
If Australia needed a reminder of the way in which games can turn on the fitness of fast bowlers, it came during the first Test at Edgbaston.
Having been carefully managed and rested from the preceding Test match against Ireland, England's foremost seamer James Anderson went into the Ashes opener feeling fit and confident.
But the 37-year-old managed just four overs before re-injuring his right calf, and his absence from the England attack not only robbed the hosts of some much-needed strike power but also increased the workload on the remaining members of the bowling attack.
Langer identified that moment, along with the batting of Australia seamer Peter Siddle who scored 44 and helped drag his team back from the precipice on day one, as pivotal to the eventual 251-run victory.
"We are very aware that England played without James Anderson, one of their best players," Langer said.
"With him not playing – he's a brilliant fast bowler, one of the all-time greats – so if he only bowls four overs for the match, we got lucky there.
"We're aware of that. We were (also) lucky in the first Test that our fast bowlers didn't have to bowl much in the second innings."
The other factor that might have convinced Langer and the Australia brains trust not to reveal their chosen XI in advance of the second Test's start is the London weather forecast.
Heavy rain is expected on Wednesday morning, which might influence thinking as to which of the surfeit of seamers is best suited to the conditions that prevail on match morning.
With no requirement to submit a final team sheet until the coin toss – which can be delayed if rain is falling and the starting time is postponed – a final reading of the pitch and overhead conditions might yield a last-minute change.
It was only an hour or so before the coin toss at Edgbaston that Australia settled on Siddle ahead of either Hazlewood or Starc.
"It looks like a good wicket," Langer said of the Lord's pitch, which spent some time under covers on Monday with showers occasionally dusting the ground.
"It looks like there's going to be a lot of rain around as well, and there's going to be (unsettled) overhead conditions.
"There's a little bit of grass on it, it looks like a pretty good wicket.
"I think it's pretty dry underneath, which we're probably going to expect for the rest of the summer.
"We're pretty clear with the team that we think will win this next Test match, we'll see that (line-up) when the toss goes up."
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