News Corp’s The Daily Telegraph is today reporting that embattled Australian opener Cameron Bancroft has been dropped from the XI ahead of the third Ashes Test at Headingley tonight.
Justin Langer has declared the Lord’s pitch “really flat”, which seems at odds with what most pundits were expecting, especially with England selecting Jofra Archer.
If Langer is correct – and his track record at Edgbaston suggests he knows a bit about pitches – does Tim Paine really want to win the toss?
Traditional wisdom suggests a captain winning the toss bats first.
So the story goes, if the pitch looks like it might suit the bowlers, the captain winning the toss thinks long and hard about bowling and still bats first.
If that formula holds true and Paine wins the toss, he’s more than likely to bat first and work on getting plenty of runs across two innings so Nathan Lyon can go to work late on Day 4 and into Day 5 on a deteriorating pitch.
This sounds good in theory, but he has two openers in less-than-stellar form, playing on a pitch that is likely to have a little bit of early life but should settle down if it is as flat as Langer predicts.
Archer will obviously be fired up for a big performance, supported by Chris Woakes, who had an outstanding Test against India with both bat and ball last year.
Does Paine want to risk another 8-122 scoreline on Day 1 if these guys get their tails up?
The alternative scenario looks inviting, assuming the pitch plays as described above. Pat Cummins, James Pattinson and co. will be a real handful, certainly for the first session, and England is just as likely to crumble under the fast bowling onslaught.
If the Aussies can roll England on Day 1, then bat when the pitch has settled down, it would take the threat of Archer largely out of the equation – Woakes, too, would be much less of a handful.
The one factor that might play a large part is the weather.
Heavy rain is expected on Wednesday and Paine would then have to worry about the humidity lingering. Again, Woakes – in particular – is in his element if the air is heavy, so batting on Thursday might be hard work.
These issues are exactly the same for Joe Root, only more so. He’s one down in this series, his side failed to make runs at Edgbaston, and he needs his batsmen to make a statement – he’s likely to bat first if he wins the toss.
If this plays out, Paine won’t be too disappointed. It gives his team a chance to see how the pitch will play, gives his bowlers first use of whatever life there is in the deck, and avoids confronting Archer for a few sessions.
Tim Paine has a terrible record at guessing the coin toss and this might be one time when it suits Australia for that record to continue.