English Cricket Team Analysis
In one incredible, terrifying spell in the middle session of Day 4 at Lord’s, the Ashes appears to have been turned on its head. Heading towards a third-straight ton since his return to test cricket, the seemingly infallible Steve Smith was cut down – quite literally – by the express pace of Jofra Archer on debut. The knock-on effects of that spell are two-fold: first, the concussion of Smith has ruled him out of this test and second, the mental impact that 155km/h bumpers could have on Australia is likely considerable. England’s primary obstacle at both Edgbaston and Lord’s was Smith and, making their way up north to Leeds, that obstacle is now gone. The former captain had until now scored over a third of Australia’s runs, and his absence quite rightly makes England the favourite.
It’s not just Archer who has wrestled the momentum the way of the home side. In Ben Stokes, England now boasts the most in-form batsman in the series. Amongst the carnage of days four and five at Lord’s it has somewhat been overlooked that Stokes’ 115* put Australia to the sword. In Jack Leach they have solved the finger spin issue – a solid performance in the second test underlining his worth. Jonny Bairstow (52 and 30*) found some form while Stuart Broad has David Warner’s measure. While not without issues of their own (namely Jason Roy and Joe Denly), the home side are dangerous, and are confident of levelling the series at 1-1.
Australian Cricket Team Analysis
As much as the series has swung to England’s favour, the fact of the matter is that Australia still leads it 1-0. Talk of a ‘winning draw’ and ‘momentum shifts’ are – if we want to be frank – just that: talk. Of course Justin Langer and his players can’t and won’t overlook what happened at Lord’s as considerable in the context of the series. But they also know that just one win in the remaining three tests sees them retain the Ashes. Pat Cummins and Marcus Labuschagne were the good news stories out of the second test, the latter of which will almost certainly replace the concussed Smith. Both (perhaps surprisingly in Cummins’ case) showed how best to quell the Archer influence, swaying, ducking and defending. Langer will know that the young quick bowled 44 overs at Lord’s, and can’t bowl forever. It will be a case of seeing him off, and making hay elsewhere.
It’s imperative that openers David Warner (four single-figure scores) and Cameron Bancroft (averaging 11 this series) lift if the Aussies are to get any sort of platform. Otherwise, they will yet again be two-down for very little, and exposing a middle-order sans Smith to the lateral movement of the Headingley deck.
On a bowling front, Peter Siddle may just retain his place after bowling just 28 mostly impressive overs at Lord’s, while it appears a choice between James Pattinson and Josh Hazlewood to see who will partner Pat Cummins with the new ball.
Punters will look straight to the pitch, and Headingley is expected to serve up a deck conducive to seam movement, which instantly spells danger for the Aussies. England’s recent record at the ground, however, is far from great. They’ve lost three of their last five tests there, to the West Indies, New Zealand and Sri Lanka. Nevertheless, with the draw likely out of the equation (the forecast is clear for much of the five days), England are primed to level the series 1-1 here. Smith has been the difference between the sides thus far, and his absence here is match-defining.
Ben Stokes is hitting the ball better than any player (on both sides) and represents a strong top runscorer option. With the ball, it’s tough to go past Archer but Stuart Broad has 20 wickets in his last four tests at Headingley, and given his consistency thus far this series also represents a strong option.
For the Aussies, the equation appears far tougher. Just who will score the runs? Usman Khawaja has threatened to go on twice this series, only to be undone by good deliveries, caught in the cordon. If he can stay compact he could be the senior player that fills the Smith void. With the ball Pat Cummins (13 wickets in the first two tests) has again underlined his position as the number one test bowler in the world, and is always the most reliable option as top wicket taker when he pulls on the whites for Australia.
|Betting Market||Betting Tip|
|Head to Head:||England|
|Top Team A Runscorer:||Ben Stokes|
|Top Team A Wicket Taker:||Stuart Broad|
|Top Team B Runscorer:||Usman Khawaja|
|Top Team B Wicket Taker:||Pat Cummins|