Was Cardiff a ‘hiccup’ as Australian coach Darren Lehmann believes or the sign of a more significant malady? We will find out over the next few days at the sport’s spiritual home.
It will be a different looking Australian line-up with wicket-keeper Brad Haddin stepping down due to personal reasons and Peter Nevill making his debut.
In other selection news, skipper Michael Clarke played a straight bat at his Test-eve media conference when quizzed about Shane Watson’s position in the side.
While Clarke gave nothing away, many journalists on the ground in London have stated it is a fait accompli that Mitch Marsh will take the all-rounder’s spot at Lord’s. Despite the changes Australia need not panic following the opening Test.
What they must do is adapt to the conditions and the team that is playing.
The lead-in to this series provided the Australian team with a false economy when it came to batting in England as it hammered the Kent and Essex attacks into submission. In the first innings of the opening Test, pursuing 430, many of the top order gifted their wickets through impatience and in an endeavour to keep the board ticking.
On the positive side for Australia was the fact that most got starts – Steve Smith, Clarke, Adam Voges and Shane Watson all made scores in the 30s in the first innings while Chris Rogers perished on 95.
It was not a matter of a dramatic collapse due to supreme bowling but a steady capitulation of wickets due to batsman error. None of the batsmen, with perhaps the exception of Watson with his dual leg-before dismissals, were out in a way that would cause them much concern for the battle ahead.
In the last Ashes series in Australia England’s batsmen were traumatised in the opening Test at the Gabba when Mitchell Johnson reduced then to a trembling mess. They were shot out for 136 and 179 to lose by a massive 381 runs.
Johnson claimed match figures of 9-103 and inflicted upon England massive self-doubt. Australia’s batsmen faced no such scarring at Cardiff.
Yes, they were humbled, but they were not blown off the paddock nor undone by bowling that was ultimately top drawer. A simple reassessment of the value of their individual wickets will go a long way to a turnaround with the willow.
It is imperative that Marsh does not look to continue where he left off against Kent and Essex where he rollicked to twin centuries. He needs to be cognisant that he is playing a Test match at Lord’s and he needs to bat with the respect that such an occasion demands.
Haddin’s omission is an extremely sad one with respect to the reason but in cricketing terms the loss may not be as keenly felt. His failure to flourish at Cardiff continued his incredibly lean run since his heroics in the last Ashes series on home soil.
Since saving Australia’s bacon on numerous occasions he has played 21 Test innings and averaged 15.2
Nevill comes into the side on the back of an outstanding summer where he scored 764 runs at 76.4 for New South Wales, including an unbeaten 235. He is also seen as an extremely competent gloveman.
On the bowling front Australia bled runs at Cardiff on numerous occasions which will often be the way when the attack contains Johnson and Mitchell Starc. Both are full throttle bowlers and as such each over will often contain a boundary ball.
Each can produce wicket-taking deliveries regularly – Australia has to hope that when they do at Lord’s they are accompanied by a raised index finger. The absence of Ryan Harris hurt the tourists at Cardiff and will no doubt at other times throughout this series.
Josh Hazlewood could well prove to be Australia’s trump.
His high action, upright seam and tight line is tailor made for English conditions and he will likely improve with each outing throughout the series.
One of the big positives for Australia in the Welsh capital was the performance of Nathan Lyon. It was expected that England would target the off-spinner and look to stamp its dominance against him.
That did not happen and Lyon more than held his own and was the most economical of the side’s specialist bowlers.
The next five days at Lord’s will show us whether Australia is still in the hunt to retain the Ashes. This series is a long way from over and do not be surprised if the tourists leave London on level terms.