• Ashes Preview: Second Test

    On the eve of the second Test match between England and Australia at Lord’s, Tom Sizeland picks five talking points ahead of the encounter.

    James Anderson has hit a nerve with the Australians by revealing that skipper Michael Clarke refused England captain Alastair Cook’s invitation to have a beer with them. This is something Anderson could have kept to himself; Clarke was well within his rights to refuse something that usually only happens at the end of a series. This moral high-ground behaviour exposes some naivety in England’s confidence.

    Ben Stokes said that their first Test victory felt like payback for what happened Down Under. ‘When Rooty caught the catch at the end, it was like revenge. I think it probably brings the best out of all of us … always trying to take the positive route and always trying to be on top,’ he said. Hang on a second. Hasn’t there only been one Test? With four matches to go, the Australians will inevitably be on top at some point in the series, and England need to show character when the chips are down.

    It’s official. Shane Watson has been dropped for the second Test, and Mitchell Marsh has replaced him. Australia have made the right choice here; it’s not a case of panicking, it is quite simply the right choice. Watson has only made one half-century this year, and Marsh made back-to-back centuries in the warm-up games, and now it deservedly holds meaning.

    Brad Haddin, meanwhile, has withdrawn from the match due to personal reasons, which means another senior player will be missing in action. New South Wales teammate Peter Nevill will slot in, so there will be untested quantities at No 6 and No 7. Their ability to slot straight in will go a long way towards settling the team.

    England look set to name an unchanged XI – don’t fix what isn’t broken. That’s not to say that all 11 are in form though, especially at the top of the order. Despite some good moments, Adam Lyth has only had one significant knock in England colours, and Gary Ballance knows he needs to find some consistency despite his battling 61 in the first innings of the opener. Ian Bell desperately needs to push on from his 60 in the second innings. If the Aussies can get on top of these players, selection issues will start to pop up.

    Starc and Johnson will be the key players in applying this pressure. Starc looks set to recover from an injury niggle that threatened his exclusion for the second match. Now they’ll need him more than ever. He hasn’t made a significant name for himself in the Test arena, but he will want to show that his World Cup exploits can translate to the five-day format. England weren’t scared of Johnson in the first Test, but that’s not to say that he can’t be a threat. Ballance was visibly uncomfortable with the short ball, but he wasn’t made to feel threatened like the English batsmen were Down Under. The pair of them need to work the Lord’s slope and unsettle the English.

    Lord’s always used to be a happy hunting ground for the Baggy Greens. Going into the 2009 Test, England had only beaten their opponents there twice in 113 years. The proverbial tide turned however with victory in 2009, their first in 75 years, followed by a crushing win four years later.

    The last time England lost the Ashes after winning the first Test was in 1997, which Australia went on to win 3-2.  The winner of the first Test has won 15 of the last 17 Ashes series, including the last five.

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    Tom Sizeland