Apologies for the lack of a day-by-day update of the Edgbaston test. I’ll do my best to sum it up here though, and after all, it didn’t take long did it?
Much was made of England’s error of judgement leading up to the Lord’s Test. Criticism flew in from all directions regarding their request for a slow pitch. England’s attempts to nullify the Aussie quicks had seemingly backfired, allowing the visitors to bat with ease and run through the home side’s own order. As a result, Gary Ballance was replaced by Jonny Bairstow and Ian Bell promoted to number 3 in a bid to provide a bit more substance to the batting line up.
Bell came into the test under a large amount of pressure, knowing that he needed runs and that England needed their number 3 to step up to the plate. He would have to wait his turn though, as Australia won the toss and batted. Thus far, the toss has been very important. Bat first in the Ashes, and you give yourself a large chance of not losing according to the stats. One other personnel change concerned the injured Mark Wood, who was replaced by Steven Finn. Once one of England’s most promising talents, Finn had been out of test match action for 2 years and was somewhat thrust into this – it would be interesting to see how he went.
As for day one anyway, it was pretty much the perfect day for England. Jimmy Anderson bowled one of his best spells in his career, taking 6-47. He used the ‘wobble ball’ to extract all the seam movement he could from the Edgbaston pitch, and simply ran through the Aussies. He had Warner trapped plum in front, bowled Peter Nevill leaving a straight one, and had Adam Voges caught behind as he attempted to let one go. His performance epitomised everything Anderson is about, as he left the pitch holding the match ball high to a standing ovation.
Steve Finn’s effort should not be underestimated either though, as he removed Steve Smith and Michael Clarke. Smith fell to him in his first over, giving him the perfect start, before he bowled the Aussie captain with a beautiful yorker. His performance was arguably as pleasing as Anderson’s, as it will surely have given him an awful lot of confidence.
England went into bat shortly before tea on day one, looking to extend as big a lead as possible over Australia’s 136 all out. Adam Lyth continued his poor run of form though, chasing a wide one from Josh Hazlewood. Ian Bell then came to the crease, and looked commanding almost instantly. He and Cook made light work of the Aussie bowlers, who simply didn’t get it right. Cook fell to Lyon in unfortunate circumstances, as the ball was caught in Voges’ sweater at short leg. Bell then became Lyon’s second victim, after he chipped one straight in the air for a fluent 53. England closed the day three down, but just three short of Australia’s total. Perhaps a perfect day would have seen Lyth and Cook both still there on 100*, but let’s be realistic here.
Day two kicked off in Australia’s favour. Mitchell Johnson brought up his 300th Test wicket with a quick, nasty bouncer that was gloved by Jonny Bairstow, before he removed Ben Stokes in the same way just two balls later. Moeen Ali came to the crease with England’s dominance slightly undermined. However, although Jos Buttler fell Ali continued to counter attack, and was ably supported by Stuart Broad. Ali hit 59, while Broad added 31. Root had earlier fallen for a well-made 63, as England took a lead of 145 into the second innings. The scores could have been a lot closer had it not been for Ali and Broad, and their efforts shouldn’t be underestimated.
Australia would have to bat very well second time if they were to get themselves back into this one. Thus, Broad removing their most consistent performer in Rogers was a huge bonus for England. Australia got themselves to 62-1, with Warner playing in typically aggressive fashion. Then, Steven Finn came along. He bumped Smith, who hit one straight in the air. Then, he got Clarke for the second time in the match, thanks to a wonderful catch from Adam Lyth. He also bowled Voges and bowled Marsh, to leave the Aussies 5 down and needing a miracle. Before day 2 closed, Finn had removed Johnson to get himself a five-for on returning to test cricket. Well bowled that man.
Day three saw the Aussies fight, as one might expect. It wasn’t too long before Nevill was out though, caught down the leg side brilliantly by Buttler. Starc hit a fifty before he fell to Moeen, and then Stokes removed Hazlewood for 11. With just 124 to win, the odds would have been firmly in England’s favour. Starc did remove Cook, leaving England 11-1, but I somehow doubt those odds would have been affected too much by that. Lyth looked to be going along alright, before he was dismissed by Hazlewood once again. The lack of any obvious replacements might be enough to keep Lyth in the side, but should he continue his barren run, he might just be looking over his shoulder come the Oval. Thankfully for England, the two openers were the only two England batsmen to lose their wickets. Bell made 65* and Root 38* as the two guided their side home.
Overall then, what wasn’t there to enjoy about the third test? Well, if you’re an Aussie then just about everything really, with the captain’s form pretty high on that list. From England’s perspective, Ian Bell’s found a couple of fifties in his first game at number three, Steven Finn’s proved that he still has bags of ability and Root continues to score runs at will. The only downside is a side injury for Jimmy Anderson. England’s leading bowler will be out of the Trent Bridge test, which is undoubtedly a huge loss for the home side. Anderson has made no secret of his love for Nottinghamshire’s ground, taking a bucket load every time he plays there.
Jimmy’s replacement is a matter of some debate. Obviously Mark Wood is waiting in the wings, as he was unlucky to miss out on this test. However, should England want to play someone to directly replace Jimmy they may have to look elsewhere. Wood is a quick, skiddy, ‘hit the pitch’ type bowler, with Rushworth or Foottit perhaps matching Anderson’s bowling style a bit better.
Anyway, Edgbaston was the perfect test for England and a nightmare come true for Australia. Should the series continue along in such a see-saw like manner, then expect England to be thrashed at Trent Bridge, before reclaiming the ashes in hugely convincing style at the Oval. Should that prove to be the case, then feel free to check out my pre-series predictions and pay me huge compliments for my fortune-telling abilities.