England Cricket Teams Analysis
It’s difficult to put into words just how close England came to surrendering the Ashes in the third test at Headingley. Still 74 runs in arrears with one wicket in hand, Ben Stokes’ effort will go down as one of (if not the) best test innings of all time. And in the context of the series, the effort gives Joe Root and his men a huge lifeline.
But despite the incredible scenes in Leeds and celebrations that followed, England’s Ashes is still on a knife’s edge. At 1-1 and without the Ashes in their possession, it’s the home side who are still doing the chasing, and a loss in Manchester would see the urn remain Down Under.
James Anderson has been ruled out of the rest of the series in a cruel blow to the hosts. And while disappointing, this shouldn’t disrupt their plans given the bowling has been largely superb even without their best ever bowler. Jofra Archer has burst on to the international test scene and Stuart Broad has made a stunning return to form this series. Further, Jack Leach looks a dependable option should Old Trafford provide turn later in the test match.
Rather it’s the batting that, like Australia, remains the underlying issue. And in announcing the straight-swap of Jason Roy and Joe Denly (as opener and number four respectively), Trevor Bayliss hopes to quell their issues at the top. Whether that pays off is yet to be seen, but once again the big players in Root and Stokes (much like Steve Smith and Marcus Labuscagne for the Aussies) likely need to anchor both innings should England prevail in Manchester.
Australia Cricket Teams Analysis
How Australia bounces back mentally from the devastating loss at Headingley remains the series-defining question at this stage. Coach Justin Langer has described feeling like his team had the Ashes ‘stolen from them’ in a seemingly unlosable position. But reports suggest the buzz around the team hasn’t waned, and motivation remains high. And well it should. Despite the doom and gloom in the aftermath of Headingley, a win at Old Trafford sees the Aussies retain the urn.
In welcoming back Smith, Tim Paine receives a much-needed injection of stability in his top order. Labuschagne will almost certainly move to number three, in what is a strong move for two reasons. First, his form and competence against the Dukes (he has three fifties in his first three Ashes innings) means Australia is less likely to lose wickets in clumps at the start of the innings. And second, he and Smith are both right-handers, which breaks up the Broad and Archer around-the-wicket dominance to left-handers. On a selection front, Smith will come in for Usman Khawaja who has been dropped. This gives Marcus Harris another chance opening the batting with David Warner.
The Aussies will hold off naming their third seamer until the morning of the test match, but at this stage it looks a straight shootout between the pace of Mitchell Starc and the nagging line and length of Peter Siddle. While Australia’s ‘smarter not harder’ approach has served them well with the ball thus far this series, they may welcome both the extra pace and left-arm variation that Starc brings to the fast-bowling unit.
The Old Trafford pitch is said to be the fastest in the country at present. But the extra zip doesn’t necessarily favour one side over the other, given they both possess a strong pace battery. The pitch is also said to be quite abrasive, so expect Nathan Lyon and Jack Leach to feature heavily as the match progresses.
The forecast is for rain at different times throughout the first three days, but particularly on Friday (day three). The draw has shortened and is very much in play, but given the brittle batting lineups of both sides, it’s a (naturally) risky market. Rain washed out almost two full days of the Lord’s test, yet a result was almost forced on the evening of day five.
For the individual markets, it’s difficult to go past Ben Stokes as top runscorer who – as was mentioned in the third test preview – is England’s most in-form batsman. Skipper Joe Root remains a present threat in this market but Stokes’ defence is in order, and when that is the case, the rest follows. Further, Stuart Broad is due for a bag, and it could very well come in Manchester.
For Australia, Smith is an obvious choice in the runscorer market but some value can be found in Labuschagne. His three innings since being hastily inserted into the XI at Lord’s read 59, 74 and 80. And finally, while Pat Cummins deservedly remains favourite in the top wicket-taker market, Josh Hazlewood’s strong form makes him a shrewd pick on a Manchester deck sure to offer some seam movement.
|Betting Market||Betting Tip|
|Head to Head:||Australia|
|Top England Runscorer:||Ben Stokes|
|Top England Wicket Taker:||Stuart Broad|
|Top Australian Runscorer:||Marcus Labuschagne|
|Top Australian Wicket Taker:||Josh Hazlewood|