Fourth Test: Thursday, August 6, 2015, 8pm AEST, Trent Bridge, Nottingham.
First Test: England defeated Australia by 169 runs
Second Test: Australia defeated England by 405 runs
Third Test: England defeated Australia by eight wickets
Fifth Test: Thursday, August 20, 2015, 8pm, AEST, Kennington Oval, London
DOES the absence of one man ruin England’s hopes of wrapping up The Ashes in the Fourth Test, starting at Trent Bridge on Thursday evening?
A side strain has robbed the English ($3.40 with WilliamHill.com.au) of their best bowler, Jimmy Anderson, leaving them without their spearhead and with a conundrum as to who to replace him as they hope a 2-1 lead can become an insurmountable 3-1 series win.
And retired seamer Ryan Harris reckons that will play into the Australians’ ($2.15 with CrownBet.com.au) (Draw is $3.95 with sportsbet.com.au) hands, on the back of their horrific performance against Anderson in the the eight wicket defeat at Edgbaston.
Anderson snared 6/47 as the Australians capitulated for just 136 in the first dig, before having to leave the field after bowling 8.3 overs and taking 1/15 in the second. Five of those second innings overs were maidens as Anderson proved near unplayable. The Aussies managed 265 in his absence.
Anderson has missed just eight Tests in eight years for the English and of those, it has only won twice – both against push over minnows Bangladesh.
That spells bad news if he misses the rest of the series.
“Not having him in their team is a bonus for us, for Australia,” Harris told Fairfax newspapers.
“It’s going to be huge.
“He’s the leader of their attack, the guy who can come out and rip through a batting order, as he did in Birmingham, or he can tie you down by bowling dot after dot.
“His absence is going to be especially big because it is at Nottingham.
“The last time we were at Nottingham it was a flat wicket that offered reverse swing, and he’s very good at that, very dangerous.”
The English will now rely on Stuart Broad and the towering Steve Finn to spearhead the attack, with Mark Wood, who played in the first two Tests, likely to come into the side as the third seamer if he recovers from a sore ankle.
“Mark Wood, who will probably replace him because he is next in line, bowled reasonably well in Cardiff and he can do a job, Stuart Broad has been in and around, and Steve Finn came back and bowled very well,” Harris said.
“But Finn and Wood – and even Broad, the way he’s gone – can be got at.
“They’re going to miss Jimmy’s consistency.
“The thing for the Australian batters is being able to put the pressure back on their bowling attack, one missing Anderson, the one who can dictate and bowl dots and maidens.
“Getting at them doesn’t necessarily mean going after them, coming straight out and hitting over the top.
“It’s more so about keeping them out for long enough, and frustrating them by rotating the strike and not letting them get comfortable, that you can profit from the bad balls when they come.”
Captain Michael Clarke, too, believes Anderson’s absence could be a turning point in a bizarre series that hasn’t seen one Test make it past four days.
“I guess we experienced (disruption) in losing Ryan Harris before a ball was bowled this series, and now Jimmy Anderson is certainly out of this Test match, and who knows if he’ll be fit for the last one as well?” Clarke told a radio station.
“As much as you don’t wish injury on anyone, I hope it can play a part like in 2005 when we lost Glenn McGrath.
“Hopefully we can take a bit of confidence knowing that someone who, I think he averages 19 (as a bowler) at this ground in Nottingham, is unavailable for selection.
“I think we can take a lot of positives from that.”
They’ll need some positives after the humiliating defeat at Edgbaston.
Shot out for 136 – with Chris Rogers striking 52 of those – the Australians were no match for the Poms, who rattled up 281 on the back of half centuries to Joe Root (63), Moeen Ali (59) and Ian Bell (53). For the Australians, spinner Nathan Lyon took 3/36 and seamer Josh Hazlewood picked up 3/74.
In reply, the Aussies struggled to 265, with Anderson’s absence telling, thanks to David Warner’s 77 off 62 balls, 59 to the nation’s new keeper batting whiz Phil Nevill and 58 from Mitch Starc.
Finn emulated Anderson in the second dig with 6/79, stepping up in the spearhead’s absence.
The English made light work of the target, reaching 2/124 thanks to another half ton from Bell (65 unbeaten), giving them victory by eight wickets.
If they want to reverse the curse, the Australians have plenty of work to do and it looks as though there could be a reshuffle of the batting order with Adam Voges expected to make way for Shaun Marsh, who could push up the order, perhaps giving the embattled Clarke some respite with a drop to number five.
He needs it, after scores of 38, 4, 7, 32 not out, 10 and 3 in the series and having not passed 50 in his past 10 Test innings.
Test match winner: Australia ($2.15 with CrownBet.com.au)
Highest opening partnership: Australia ($1.67 with WilliamHill.com.au)
Has this become one of the most impossible series to predict? We reckon so. Before the series started, everyone was on the Aussie 5-0 whitewash bandwagon. The Poms were no good. Then they came out and won the First Test inside four days. All of a sudden they were hot property and wound right in for the Second Test. Australia came out and summarily destroyed them. The First Tests was deemed an outlier and the Aussies now knew what it took to win on English soil. At least that’s what we all thought. But they were again pitiful in the Third Test. We’re keeping the faith in the inconsistency and backing the Aussies to bounce back and tie up the series. There’s too much riding on it. We love the inclusion of Marsh if it happens. You just feel that top order is a little sturdier with him in there and it gives Clarke the luxury of dropping down a cog. His ageing body needs is. Anderson’s absence could really be a fatal blow for Enlgand – he didn’t take a wicket in the Second Test and the Aussie bats flogged them all over Lord’s. As far as the top order goes, it’s been a one or the other type situation for both sides, but we don’t have much faith in Lyth. Warner and Rogers are the better pair, but we need them both to fire together and get the Aussies off to a good start.
Top run scorer
Ian Bell ($5.50 with sportsbet.com.au)
We know as Aussies we’re meant to hate the Sherminator. But it’s hard not to respect the guy. It feels like every time he fails in a Test, he’s on the cusp of career oblivion, but every time that happens he bounces back with something special. Under fire after an underwhelming start to the series, Bell whacked back to back 50s at Edgbaston to solidify his spot as the Poms’ best batsman (apologies to Kevin Pietersen). Expect him to build on that in the Third Test. He always gets a ton in the Ashes and he only has four innings to do it. Let’s back him and hope he does it in the first dig.
Michael Clarke ($6 with sportsbet.com.au)
Call us crazy, but we reckon a drop down the order will be just the tonic Clarke needs to reverse his fortunes. The second innings declaration at Lord’s hurt him more than any one. He was in sparkling form, having cracked an unbeaten 32 off 34 balls when he made the decision to call them in and a big score could have helped him reverse a devastating form slump that has many questioning his spot in the team. The guy is a champion and you just feel he has a big knock in him. We really feel the drop down to number five could well be the life line his career desperately needs.
Top wicket taker
Moeen Ali ($7.50 with WilliamHill.com.au)
Ali has been a revelation with both bat and ball for the English in this series, saving their hides with the bat and providing a consistency that has softened the blow of Graeme Swann’s departure. Ali has nine wickets in the series and he really spins them. It’s expected to be a lively surface for the seamers, but we think there will be some love for the spinners as well, hence our next pick.
Nathan Lyon ($5.50 with WilliamHill.com.au)
Lyon has been accurate, economical and dangerous for the Australians in this series. He is the side’s second leading wicket taker and removed both Cook and Bell in short time in the first innings of the Third Test. Has 12 wickets and we reckon a bag might be just around the corner. Josh Hazlewood shouldn’t be discounted. He is the leading wicket taker in the Ashes and we wouldn’t be surprised if he ripped through, but were sticking with Garry to lead the charge.
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