Well, we certainly have a series on our hands. The script has been torn up as Australia’s bid to win their first Ashes series in England since 2001 took a massive blow last week as the hosts secured a 169-run victory in Cardiff to take an early lead. Bookmakers and pundits had given England little chance prior to the match but perhaps this was rather short-sighted. Australia have lost eleven of their last seventeen Tests away from home, mostly on slow or sluggish pitches. Lord’s should have a bit more pace in the strip (not difficult considering the lack of juice in Cardiff) but don’t expect the ground staff to prepare anything green or wicked.
Some valuable lessons have been learnt from the first test and they will definitely come into play for this test match in London. From England’s perspective, it was a largely complete Test for England. The entire side contributed to the victory and took complete ownership of their individual roles. It is clear that there is great depth in the batting line-up, even despite no-shows from Gary Balance and a few poor dismissals from Cook and Bell. There are also very positive signs from the bowling attack as they looked very solid and strong in Cardiff.
Australia came out of the first test with more questions than answers. The core of their batting order disappointed, with no big scores from Warner, Clarke or world number one Steve Smith. In addition there was a very pressing disappointment that came from the performances of Voges and Watson. The bowling attack has also come under a bit of criticism as what is considered the best pace attack in the world, struggled on a flat and uninspiring pitch.
Looking ahead at the second test, England have made no changes to their starting XI whilst Michael Clarke admitted that his side will be forced to adapt if the pitches continue in the same vein as the one in Cardiff. With this in mind the Australian selectors have made some key changes, bring in Nevill for Haddin and replacing the underperforming Watson with Marsh. Peter Nevill will debut with the Baggy Greens and if his performance in the tour game is anything to go by, the 29-year-old will not have any issues slotting in at such short notice. The move to replace Watson could mark the end of his Test career with Australia barring a couple of unfortunate injuries, with Clarke urging his side to lay a better fight at Lord's.
It was no surprise to anyone to see Joe Root top the England run chart for both the first innings and total run count in Cardiff. The odds that were available for him to top score in the Series had been slashed to 7/10 and he again leads the market for the Lord’s test (3/1). I have no doubt that Root will again perform well but the experienced pair of Alastair Cook (4/1) and Ian Bell (5/1), who have both had many positive experiences at this ground, could challenge him. I’m going to give the nod to Cook at 4/1 with Ladbrokes.
With such a dead wicket in Cardiff, this market was blow wide apart. Anderson’s swing was less of a factor than usual; instead it was patient wicket-to-wicket bowling that reaped success in the first innings. With a familiar pitch likely to be prepared at Lords, I wouldn’t be surprised if Broad (3/1 with William Hill) continues his momentum gained from a terrific first test performance.
Their poor first Test performance makes them a lot more of an unknown quantity than I originally thought. Clarke, Voges and Watson were very disappointing and can be overlooked in favour of the three top scorers from Cardiff: Rogers, Warner and Smith. Chris Rogers’ 95 showed that he is more than capable against the new ball and his early second innings dismissal was the first time he hadn’t reached 50 in seven innings. On the other end, both Warner and Smith looked ready to provide some Aussie resistance and played quite well, notching up runs with boundaries and aggressive running. Don’t be surprise if Steve Smith (10/3 with Stan James) scores well at Lords; I find it very hard to see him going without hitting at least mid 70’s / 80’s after averaging 114 in the West Indies.
The fitness of Mitchell Starc (4/1) is worrying; even though he was Australia’s top wicket taker, he could only offer half-hearted run-ins on short spells during the second innings. He looks set to feature at Lord’s but it could be best to avoid him as his ankle pain might flare up again. Hazelwood showed consistency and discipline in Cardiff and will surely be rewarded on the sloping pitch at Lord’s. Mitchel Johnson will also likely reap rewards in London; the dry, flat pitches ordered by England are aimed to mitigate the threat of the left arm bowler, but you can’t keep a great bowler quite forever. So Johnson to reign supreme at 9/2 with Bet365 is what I’m putting my money on.
Much has been said in the news about the ‘Home of Cricket’ leading into this important second Test. It’s not likely to be as slow as Cardiff and the slope will offer something extra for the seamers. Australia need to pick an attack that will get the most out of the surface instead of one geared towards just fearsome pace. Lord’s usually produces a fascinating contest between bat and ball and the Aussies will feel they have a better chance of making an impact here. England have won three of the last five Tests at the ground, including hammering Australia by 347 runs in 2013.
The result from the first test has shaken up the betting for second of the back-to-back tests. England are drifting in the market at 2/1 whilst Australia have shortened to 11/8 to grab the second victory of the series. Also, with a changeable weather forecast for the coming days, a draw could come into play and it can be snapped up at 11/4.