Australia’s fielding is letting them down.
Whenever Peter Siddle has the ball in hand, all sorts of chances are being dropped, forcing him to do it himself on Day 4 with a sharp caught-and-bowled. The brains trust will also be concerned by the two missed LBW referrals off Nathan Lyon’s bowling, which were out.
Looking ahead to the third Ashes Test in Leeds, though, and the form of David Warner and Cameron Bancroft is much more of a concern.
Since the World Cup, Warner has been horribly out of form, with Stuart Broad dismissing him for scores of two, eight and three. This seems to have impacted his form in the field, putting down a few chances the Warner of old would have snaffled.
This will be worrying captain Tim Paine and coach Justin Langer, as Warner was always going to be key to getting Australia off to a good start by putting the pressure back on England, but it just hasn’t happened.
To add to Warner’s woes, his opening partner Bancroft has been in bad form as well, with scores of eight, seven and 13. Australia’s opening partnerships stands of two, 13 and 11 might have the selectors regretting the omission of Joe Burns from the squad, as they might need a wholesale change of Burns and Marcus Harris in for Warner and Bancroft either for the next Test at Headingley or the fourth at Old Trafford.
What more could we ask from Steve Smith? He was in the wars against the rapid pace of Jofra Archer and he got hit numerous times, yet he still wanted to come back out straight away and get his name on the honours board.
Smith is one of the best ever, and courageous as well. It was very poor form from the spectators to boo Smith off the ground after being hit on the neck – an incident that brought back the memory of Phillip Hughes.
After being hit a few times, Smith never looked the same. He looked rattled. Hopefully for him and Australia his arm will be fine, and he will be able to play a major part in the series, piling on the runs.
At the start of the series, many commentators thought Rory Burns was a weak option at the top of the order for England. He has proven his critics very wrong.
He is currently the series’ second top-scorer behind Smith and he has looked the most solid out of all the English batsman. He isn’t perturbed if he takes 50 balls to score a run. He is happy to stay in and let the other batsman build around him, which will make him a good opener for England in years to come.
On the other hand, captain Joe Root is struggling. It happened to Alastair Cook and history is repeating itself.
During the 2013/14 Ashes, Cook was in a torrid run of form and England were getting hammered, so his credentials as captain were questioned. He managed to hang on to his role for another three years and rediscovered his fine touch with the bat.
They are similar circumstances for Root. Chances are Root will be able to bounce back from this and have a long future as England captain, but he will need to find a balance that works for him.
At Headingley, Australia must drop Warner and select Harris.
Warner has been our go to man alongside Smith for years now, but he needs some time to clear his head after the World Cup.
It would be beneficial for him to have a match off and spend some time enjoying a mini-break so that he can be primed for the fourth Test. Bancroft could have been dropped, too, but Burns isn’t in the squad. If Bancroft doesn’t score runs in Leeds, then Warner can come back in his place for the fourth Test.
It’s a very daring move, especially with the series on the line, but it might just pay off for the Aussies.
Also, if the pitch is flat at Headingley, Mitchell Starc or James Pattinson should replace Siddle to offer the attack extra pace.
England should drop Jason Roy and Jos Buttler and bring in Sam Curran and Dominic Sibley.
Buttler is much like David Warner – he’s worn out from the World Cup and needs a break, and could be replaced by Curran, who’s a good bowling option and a decent bat.
Roy’s omission is no surprise. Sibley is a talented young opener who’s scored the most runs in County Division 1 this year, tallying 940 at 63. His first-class record hasn’t been great, averaging just 39, but he still has ten centuries and 19 fifties.
He is currently in a good run of form, coming off 244 and a run of four straight scores over 50. Add a strong 74 against Australia A and England would be wise to give him a crack, ending the failed Roy experiment.