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Australia needs to take the same XI to Lord's

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Expert
6th August, 2019
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‘Don’t change a winning team’ is an age-old mantra – one I would be running with if I was selecting the Australian team for the second Test.

Much debate surrounded the composition of the XI for Edgbaston and it will no doubt burble around prior to the Lord’s match.

In the end, the tourists won by 251 runs, with the performance of both David Warner and Cameron Bancroft at the top of the order the only real negative.

Bancroft will no doubt be working diligently between matches with batting coach Graeme Hick, endeavouring to eradicate the fall to the offside.

He needs to return to the clarity of footwork he displayed in his unbeaten 93 against an attack that included Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Peter Siddle and Josh Hazlewood in the intra-squad match that preceded the Ashes.

Warner failed to transfer his prolific run-scoring in the World Cup to the red ball. His Test figures in the Old Dart are well shy of his overall career numbers, but England would much prefer him out of the side than in it so he will be given an opportunity to enhance his stats.

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While Usman Khawaja failed in the first innings, his counter-attacking 40 off 48 balls early in the second helped set the tone as Australia looked to erase the 90-run deficit.

Steve Smith was, well Steve Smith.

He capped his return with two contrasting centuries and was once again the bedrock.

England will go back to the drawing board and spend the majority of its team meetings trying to devise a way to quell his genius.

Steve Smith

Steve Smith (Photo by Visionhaus)

Travis Head was solid in both innings for scores of 35 and 51, and appears unflustered and unfazed at the crease. If there is a knock on him in the nascent stages of his Test career it is the inability to turn starts into imposing innings, with just one of his seven half-centuries being transferred into three figures.

Matthew Wade provided a cause for celebration for the faithful while simultaneously silencing the naysayers. All the talk was around Smith’s mastery with the willow, but Wade’s second innings 110 was critical.

After falling for just one on the opening day, after waiting so long for a recall, he could have been excused for a tentative start in the second innings.

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When he joined Smith at 4-205, Australia’s lead was a tenuous 115. From ball one, Wade’s footwork was crisp and he batted with authority, especially his driving on the up through the offside.

Tim Paine fell early to a poor shot in the first innings and made 35 in the second. He needs to turn starts into substantial totals, but his keeping was neat and punctuated by two outstanding catches up over the stumps to Nathan Lyon.

I cannot see the top seven changing.

Australia was handed a gift when James Anderson went down inside the first hour. It not only dented the host’s potency but also increased the workload on the remaining bowlers – factors that no doubt significantly contributed to the tourists’ mammoth 7-487 in the third innings.

James Anderson drops a catch

James Anderson (Photo by Philip Brown/Getty Images)

With Ben Stokes in the line-up, England was still able to rotate three quicks alongside Stuart Broad and Chris Woakes.

While Australia continues to select three pace bowlers it will walk a tightrope with respect to injury. They do have Mitch Marsh in the squad but given the performances of Wade and Head, omitting either for his inclusion as a safety net with the ball is not a viable option.

The four bowlers selected for Edgbaston all did their job. Cummins started slowly but worked his way into the match. On a slow pitch on the final day, he was still able to muscle out Rory Burns, Jonny Bairstow and Woakes with short deliveries.

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James Pattinson was the pick of the bowlers in the first innings while used sparingly in the second, bowling just eight of the 53 overs.

Crucially, he got through his first Test in 42 months unscathed. Given there is an eight-day break between Tests he should be fine to go around at Lord’s.

The second and third Tests are then back-to-back. There may be a case at that point for rotating him out if his workload is deemed a concern but given he was judged to be in the best XI for the opening Test there is no reason to rest him just one match into the series.

Peter Siddle bowled beautifully, if for little reward in the wicket column, finishing with figures of 2-52 and 0-28.

The dismissal of Joe Root in the first innings was a key blow. His opening spell on the final day was arguably the best by a quick in the Test. Rather than bowling seam up he scrambled it with various cutters to generate subtle movement off the deck.

He repeatedly went passed the outside edge of both Root and Jason Roy’s bat. The way he befuddled and tied down Roy no doubt contributed to the opener’s brain fade against Lyon.

A wrong-footed Paine and a grassed catch by Smith left Siddle’s good work unrewarded.

There is talk that either Starc or Hazlewood would be a better fit for Lord’s. Siddle had done nothing to warrant his exclusion, and indeed the recent performance by Ireland’s Tim Murtagh (5-13) in England’s first innings at Lord’s shows the value of a nagging line and length approach on that surface.

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The slope at the famous old ground may play into his hands.

Starc has a good record at Lord’s in one-day cricket but his only Test match at the venue in 2015 produced 2-102.

Hazlewood showed during the Australia A games and the intra-squad match that he is still working his way back to his best following a long injury lay-off.

I would leave both he and Starc in the wings currently pending the performance at Lord’s and the quick turnaround.

Nathan Lyon exploited the last day conditions perfectly at Edgbaston. Long gone are the days where he struggled to get the job done on fifth-day pitches.

His 6-49 took him to within three wickets of Dennis Lillee’s career haul of 355. Sometime during the second Test, we can expect Lyon to move up to number three all-time behind Shane Warne (708) and Glenn McGrath (563).

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Moeen Ali has surely played his last Test in this series. No matter who replaces him, the tourists will hold the upper hand in the spin stakes.

Australia humbled England at ‘Fortress Edgbaston’ and the same XI should be accorded the opportunity of doing likewise next week.