Second Test – starts 11:00am local time on Thursday, July 16, 2015 at Lord’s, London
England – $2.80 at www.Luxbet.com
Draw – $3.65 at Sportsbet
Australia – $2.50 at Bet365.com
One Test in, and already Australia’s Ashes defence has gone wildly off script.
This Aussie side was supposed to be a big chance of mimicking Sir Donald Bradman’s Invincibles, who famously went 31 matches unbeaten on their tour of the UK in 1948.
But it only took two warm-up games and a single Test for Michael Clarke and company to blot their copybook in the 2015 edition.
Shall we start calling them the Vincibles, then?
England made a big statement at Sophia Gardens in the first 2015 Investec Ashes Test, wrapping up a 169-run victory within four days to take a 1-0 series lead.
In truth, that losing margin flatters the visitors.
Chasing 412 in the last innings, the Australian batsmen crumbled from 1/97 to 7/151 before a gutsy 77 from Mitchell Johnson at number eight added a veneer of respectability to the scoreline.
It was a rude awakening for the Baggy Greens, who came into this series absurdly overhyped when you consider they haven’t won a Test series in England since 2001.
But the bookies expect them to bounce back in the second Test at Lord’s, which commences this Thursday on July 16.
Online bookmaker Bet365 has Australia favourites at $2.50 to win, while the hosts are paying best odds of $2.80 over at www.Luxbet.com.
And despite the tourists under-performing as a whole in Wales, all eyes are on Shane Watson and his tenuous grasp on the number six slot.
With Mitchell Marsh scoring consecutive centuries in the tour matches, Watson’s place was under pressure before a single ball had been bowled at the Swalec Stadium.
Now, after two characteristic LBW dismissals – and two signature misuses of the Decision Review System – the 33-year-old allrounder has been all but voted off the island by the Australian public.
It doesn’t help that he bowled just 13 overs for no wicket, when it was widely believed he got the nod over Marsh due to his superior skills with the ball.
Even Australia’s head coach Darren Lehmann admitted that Watson’s position was less than assured ahead of the trip to London.
“At the end of day you don’t want to be getting out LBW all the time and you want to make more runs,” Lehmann said to the press.
“Shane would be disappointed; so are we. It’s one of those things where you have to find a way and that’s something we probably didn’t do as a batting group, not just Shane.
“We’ll certainly look at the wicket [at Lord’s] and work out the best XI to win in those conditions and if it means making changes, we’ll make changes. That won’t be an issue for the selection panel. It’s going to be a tight call heading into the second Test.
“We can’t control what just happened, what we can do is learn from it and make the right decisions going forward – that is selection and also the way we play.”
Another in the firing line is Brad Haddin.
Having starred with bat and gloves alike in the 2013-14 Ashes whitewash, the Australian wicketkeeper made what could prove to be a series-defining error when he dropped Joe Root on zero in the first innings.
Root would go on to make 134, while Haddin ended up conceding 24 byes in what was a rather messy outing behind the stumps.
The New South Welshman is expected to retain his spot for Lord’s, but another costly display could force the Aussie selection panel to hand Peter Nevill his Test debut.
In better news for the away side, Mitchell Starc is a real chance to pass fit despite playing through obvious soreness on his way to a match-high seven wickets in Cardiff.
It was initially feared the left-arm speedster would have to sit out the second Test, but Australia’s team physio, Alex Kountouris, suggested Starc was in better shape than first thought.
“Mitchell experienced some pain in the back of his right ankle during the Test match which is common with fast-bowlers,” Kountouris said.
“He was in discomfort while bowling but since then has improved significantly.
“We will monitor him over the next few days but the plan is for him to take part in some light training and we are hopeful he will be available for selection for the second Test beginning on Thursday.”
England, meanwhile, will hardly want to change a thing after silencing the doubters with a performance that was overflowing with positives.
Some of the credit must go to captain Alastair Cook, who allowed his charges to play with the kind of aggression and purpose that so delighted fans in the recent ODI series win over New Zealand.
But the chief architect of Australia’s demise was Root, who made the most of his early reprieve from Haddin in the first innings to post a game-changing century.
The improved form of Ian Bell was also good news for England, with the veteran strokemaker looking more comfortable with every run as he and Root partnered up to score 60 apiece in the second innings.
Another bonus was Moeen Ali’s performance as the main spinner. The allrounder took five wickets for the match, including the scalps of Michael Clarke and Steve Smith – Australia’s best players of spin bowling.
The seam trio of James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Mark Wood also did the job on a slow, low wicket, and the England captain could not have been happier with his team’s all-up display.
“It was a brilliant performance,” Cook said after the game.
“This Test couldn’t have gone any better and we’ll enjoy tonight.
“Joe Root was fantastic and the bowlers were superb.
“Everyone was talking about what’s gone on in the past, but this is a different side.
“We had to look forward. We always took the attacking option in this game.”
The Cardiff wicket was cause for some consternation among the Aussies, whose fast bowlers struggled to find bounce and carry from the very first session.
And while he did admit that it would be nice to see a bit more life in the deck at Lord’s, Lehmann stressed that his charges would have to make do with the hands they were dealt.
“We know what we’re going to get in terms of wickets,” the former Australia batsman said.
“Everyone says we’d love a little more pace and yes, that would be true, but we’re not going to get it and there’s no point asking.
“You’d hope for more at ‘the home of cricket’ [Lord’s] … I’d just like you to be able to bowl a bouncer on day one.”
England: Alastair Cook (C), Moeen Ali, James Anderson, Gary Ballance, Ian Bell, Stuart Broad, Jos Buttler, Steven Finn, Adam Lyth, Adil Rashid, Joe Root, Ben Stokes, Mark Wood
Australia: Michael Clarke (C), Fawad Ahmed, Patrick Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, Brad Haddin, Mitchell Johnson, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Shaun Marsh, Peter Nevill, Peter Siddle, Mitchell Starc, David Warner, Shane Watson, Adam Voges
Second Test match predictions
Result – Australia ($2.50 at www.Bet365.com)
Highest opening partnership – Australia ($1.80 at CrownBet)
First innings lead – Australia ($1.80 at WilliamHill.com)
Australia got a big wake-up call in Wales, and they should be much better for it when they head to the home of cricket this week. It might be some time before you see this kind of value again on the Baggy Greens to win a Test match.
Only three Aussie batsmen made fifties at Sophia Gardens, and two of them were the openers. Neither of England’s starting pair did an awful lot in the first Test, so Warner and Rogers for the best opening stand looks a solid option.
Best odds for top team batsman
England – Joe Root ($3.80 at CrownBet.com): The young Yorkshireman is England’s go-to guy in the middle order, as he proved once again with 194 runs in the first Test. He loves a big number, having top scored in eight of his 28 Test matches to date.
Australia – David Warner ($4.50 at www.Bet365.com): We all know what this guy is capable of. It’s been a little while since he last reached triple figures, but that big one is never far away with Warner. If he gets a couple out of the screws early on, watch out.
Top picks for most wickets
England – Stuart Broad ($4 at www.CrownBet.com): Broad was crucial in Cardiff, taking out three of the top four as Australia fell to pieces in the second innings. He could be even more effective on a Lord’s pitch which will surely offer a bit more bounce and pace.
Australia – Josh Hazlewood ($4 at Luxbet.com): Hazlewood was probably Australia’s most consistent bowler in the first Test, notching up five wickets with far more economy than either Starc or Johnson. A tall, seam-up bowler who loves that nagging line outside off stump, he could have a bit of fun at a venue where Glenn McGrath enjoyed enormous success.
2nd Test Ashes specials
Any batsman to score a century on day one – $2.25 at Sportsbet
Australia to win + Steve Smith to top score – $11 at WilliamHill.com
Double century to be scored – $5.50 at www.Sportsbet.com
More 2015 Investec Ashes fixtures
Third Test: July 29-August 2 at Edgbaston, Birmingham
Fourth Test: August 6-10 at Trent Bridge, Nottingham
Fifth Test: August 20-24 at The Oval, London
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