With the introduction of Jofra Archer’s viciousness, the Ashes have taken a dramatic turn.
Although Australia managed to squeeze out a draw at Lord’s, there has been a sudden momentum shift and with Australia’s best batsman Steve Smith sidelined for the third Test after copping a nasty bumper from Archer, England would further fancy their chances of squaring the series at Headingley.
Archer set the tone for the match with his hostile approach and made an impactful debut for England. However, moving forward, it’s crucial for Australia to not get bogged down by his belligerence and not let him dictate terms throughout the rest of the series.
The Aussies should have confidence that they can still rattle the English line-up and that they possess enough firepower in their bowling battery to avenge the injuries that Archer inflicted on them in the Lord’s Test.
For that to happen, the induction of Mitchell Starc or James Pattinson into the playing XI is necessary. Australian fast-bowlers have been brilliant in the series thus far, but they have lacked venom.
The Aussie quicks employed an aggressive approach when England last toured their shores. Now it’s time to revive some good old chin music.
With Smith out of the equation for the Leeds Test at least, Australia need to be at their brutal best to avoid losing to an English side that is gradually finding its mojo. If England manage to level the series, regaining form and getting back on the winning track might become challenging for the tourists.
The openers should remain. Despite the horrific run of form David Warner and Cameron Bancroft find themselves in, they are both due a big knock. And who knows, the absence of Steve Smith and the added responsibility might prove to be the lucky charm for them.
Bancroft battled at Lord’s and played lots of deliveries without ticking the score along. Warner, on the other hand, has had his fair share of troubles from the around-the-wicket angle and needs to find a way to tackle the new Dukes cherry.
Usman Khawaja at three seems to be the likeliest of choices given Smith’s injury. Khawaja has routinely made steady starts before being dismissed.
Marnus Labuschagne is almost a certain replacement for Smith. Labuschagne’s name was forever scribbled down in the history books after he became the first ever concussion substitute in the history of Test cricket.
Labuschagne made a gutsy 59 off 100 deliveries to take Australia safely to the draw. His gritty approach, mental toughness and solid technique should earn him a spot at Headingley.
But with the blow to Smith, Travis Head could be expected to elevate himself up the order. The co-vice-captain has looked in solid nick throughout the two matches and would be looking to shoulder the extra responsibility and stack up runs for the visitors.
Labuschagne might be demoted to No.5 and he will be followed by Matthew Wade and Tim Paine.
Pat Cummins, Australia’s other vice-captain, occupies the spot right after the skipper. He bowled lion-heartedly in the Lord’s Test but it’s time to up the ante even more.
Peter Siddle has been a gun player for Australia and is in good bowling rhythm. At the moment, however, the tourists require a tearaway kind of a bowler – a Starc or a Pattinson with express pace to trouble the Englishmen.
Headingley usually bears a variable wicket with a result in it more often than not. Australian pacers will prefer a hard deck with tennis-ball bounce in it.
Josh Hazlewood featured for the first time in the series at Lord’s and bowled well. He right on the money in the first innings, picking up three wickets at the top.
The tall right-armer was unfortunate not to scalp anything in the second innings. But he will be raring to go to Headingley and utilise the seam-friendly conditions that are usually on offer there. He is a definite selection for this match.
There is talk about leaving out Nathan Lyon and playing an extra paceman. Leaving out a specialist spinner in a possible five-day game is risky.
Lyon proved his credentials at Edgbaston and also bowled nicely on the second day at Lord’s. With the heavy rain around and the wicket being covered for long intervals of time, he didn’t benefit from the rough patches he would’ve liked to see.
But he is still an automatic selection for this Test and can play a massive role in deciding Australia’s fate in this series.