Australia captain Michael Clarke insists his side have devised a plan to prevent county cricket run-machine Jonny Bairstow from replicating his blistering domestic form in the third Investec Ashes Test at Edgbaston, which starts today.
England responded to their 405-run mauling in the second Test at Lord’s, which levelled the series at 1-1, by dropping out-of-form batsman Gary Ballance in favour of his Yorkshire team-mate Bairstow, who averages more than 100 this season.
Bairstow’s inclusion also means a re-jig of the batting order with Ian Bell at No3 and vice-captain Joe Root promoted to No4, as England bid to arrest their early innings woes. In eight of their last 13 Test innings they have failed to pass 52 without losing three wickets.
The 25-year-old’s last Test appearance came in Sydney in the final act of the whitewash series of 2013-14, and while he may have cashed in for defending county champions Yorkshire, Clarke has warned Bairstow that Australia’s seamers will prove tougher to tame.
“We have looked at footage [of Bairstow] in the lead up to this Test match,” said Clarke. “We know where we have to bowl, we just have to have the discipline to put the ball there consistently and execute our skills.
“He’s an attacking player and likes to play his shots. He has performed well in county cricket this year. But I would hope that the attack he is about to face is a little bit different to what he’s faced in county cricket.”
While England moved swiftly in the wake of the second Test to try and cure their batting ills, a decision will be made this morning over the fitness of seamer Mark Wood, with Middlesex fast bowler Steven Finn on standby.
Test rookie Wood was hampered by an ankle injury at Lord’s and returned match figures of 1-131, while his past injury record has prompted England to adopt a position of caution.
“We are a little concerned about Woody,” admitted England skipper Alastair Cook. “He has played a huge amount of cricket -- for Woody -- over the last six to eight months so we have to be careful with him.”
Should England opt to rest Wood, Cook has confirmed that Finn is primed for a recall, having not figured in a Test match since the 2013 Ashes.
In 2011, Finn became the youngest bowler to take 50 Test wickets for England and has taken a total of 90 in 23 appearances, but was unused during the last tour of Australia and was sent home early after being deemed “not selectable”.
The match, meanwhile, marks 10 years since England’s famous last-gasp victory over Australia at Edgbaston – a ground on which the hosts have won six and lost just one of their 10 Tests -- in the 2005 Ashes. That too followed a harrowing defeat at Lord’s.
“It would be a fantastic anniversary of those 10 years to win here after losing at Lord’s,” added Cook.
“It’s 1-1, a three-match series now, and we need to win two games to do something very special.”