While Australia face some nice selection debates over the next week, England will try to plug a range of holes in their side that emerged as they were thrashed in the first Ashes Test yesterday.
At a ground which was described as a fortress for England before the series commenced, Australia ran roughshod over the hosts, first piling up a massive lead and then scything through them with the ball.
Chasing 398 to win, England’s meek surrender yesterday may prompt their selection panel to make some tough calls.
England’s best bowler James Anderson is injured, first-choice spinner Moeen Ali continues to flounder against Australia, and keeper-batsman Jonny Bairstow is labouring with both gloves and blade.
Australia, meanwhile, are in the envious position of trying to figure out how to squeeze Mitchell Starc or Josh Hazlewood into an attack that out-bowled England at Edgbaston.
The second Test is at Lord’s, arguably the best Test batting surface in the UK, where Australia made 820 runs for the loss of just ten wickets in the last Ashes.
This may persuade the Australian selectors they require a fifth bowling option, adding another layer of intrigue to Australia’s selections.
The lack of a decent fifth bowler was a hindrance for Australia in the first dig at Edgbaston as England batted for 136 overs. This forced their front-line bowlers to take on big workloads.
If the selectors decide they want to avoid a repeat of this situation, then Marnus Labuschagne and Mitchell Marsh will come into the discussion for Lord’s.
Labuschagne is clearly the better option, having churned out five tons in county cricket this season and bowled well in his brief Test career. The Aussie selectors, however, have long favoured all-rounders that bowl seam up.
As absurd as it would be, Marsh could earn yet another premature Test recall. In his past 13 Test knocks, the West Australian has averaged just nine with the bat.
Picking a fifth bowling option would, of course, require a member of the current top six to be axed. Travis Head and Matt Wade surely are safe after their pivotal efforts at Edgbaston. That leaves Cameron Bancroft and Usman Khawaja as perhaps the most vulnerable pair.
Khawaja’s experience and success at the top of the order – he averages 81 as a Test opener – could potentially see him take Bancroft’s place. That would open up room for either Labuschagne at three or Marsh at six.
Further down the order, Australia will have a tough call to make on one of James Pattinson or Peter Siddle. Both quicks bowled solidly but without luck at Edgbaston.
Given his torrid injury history, Pattinson is likely to be rested at Lord’s after sending down 35 overs in the Ashes opener. Starc would be his most obvious replacement.
That could leave Siddle and Hazlewood in a battle for the third seamer spot at Lord’s. Hazlewood and Starc could get a chance to press their cases in Australia’s three-day tour match, which starts tomorrow. That fixture will also offer gilded opportunities for Labuschagne and Marsh.
England, meanwhile, will be dealing with darker issues. Star swing bowler James Anderson looks very likely to miss the Lord’s Test with a calf injury that limited him to just four overs at Edgbaston. He is widely expected to be replaced by express quick Jofra Archer.
England may decide to make a second change to their attack by dropping Moeen Ali. While the off-spinner has been excellent with the ball in Tests over the past year, he seems to have a mental block against Australia. In his past ten Ashes Tests, Moeen’s bowling average is astronomical at 77.
Waiting in reserve, England have a left-arm spinner in Jack Leach who has a fantastic first-class record and has made a sprightly start to his Test career, with 20 wickets at 26.
What’s more is that left-arm orthodox spin just happens to be the only style of bowling that has troubled Steve Smith in recent years. With six tons from his last ten knocks against England, Smith’s spectre surely will convince England to go with Leach.
England’s selectors will also need to consider the position of out-of-form gloveman Bairstow. He has never been a good keeper and was shoddy behind the stumps at Edgbaston. Bairstow’s batting long has kept him in the England team but he has averaged just 23 since the start of the last English summer from 23 Test innings.
England could improve their keeping and lose nothing with the bat by picking the hugely talented Ben Foakes, a quality gloveman who has averaged 40 with the blade from his five Tests.
The home side could make as many as three changes at Lord’s. Regardless of personnel, their attitudes will need to change after a feeble effort in the second half of the Ashes opener.
Australia, meanwhile, will feel they can only strengthen the team that bulldozed England at Edgbaston.