Spring-like weather has hit London over the last few days and, with the second Ashes Test starting tomorrow morning at Lord’s, England will be hoping April showers don’t ruin their chances of levelling the series.
Having been beaten by Australia at Edgbaston, England really need the conditions to be on their side over the next five days.
If Lord’s provides a green-tinged pitch — like we saw against Ireland recently and in some of the World Cup games — and the overhead conditions are just right, the hosts can come back to 1-1 in the Ashes.
On the other hand, a flat pitch and sunshine would be right up Australia’s street because, as they showed in the first Test, they are much the better team in placid conditions.
The visitors are in the box seat and will arrive confident and ready to play their aggressive brand of cricket. I don’t think it’s all doom and gloom for England, but they need to fight back strongly at the Home of Cricket.
The toss is always important in Test matches and, considering the series situation, venue and conditions, this game is no different. England skipper Joe Root would love to win it and give Stuart Broad and Chris Woakes the best opportunity to take early wickets.
Like any team, Australia are vulnerable to the swinging ball and I also think their bowlers are not as good as England’s at exploiting them.
Broad and Woakes enjoyed excessive movement last month when they combined to bowl Ireland out for 38, with overcast weather and a fresh pitch providing the perfect platform to run riot.
You would think Lord’s will have saved their best pitch for an occasion like the Ashes and it is very unlikely to be a minefield this time. I don’t expect scores of 500, but England probably won’t have it all their own way either.
Steve Smith haunted England at Edgbaston and the fact he scored 215 in the first innings of the 2015 Ashes Test at Lord’s won’t be lost on them. If they don’t dismiss him early and the sun comes out, Lord’s can be a completely different place to bat.
Mitchell Starc is back in Australia’s squad and he is their best-equipped bowler if the ball swings. I’d expect him to bowl from the Pavilion End where you can use the slight downhill slope to generate momentum and push up the speed gun.
His left-arm angle, pace and ability to swing the ball back into the right-handers won’t be the only things England have to deal with, as he will also create foot holes for Nathan Lyon to use later in the match.
England have dropped Moeen Ali who couldn’t be relied upon at Edgbaston with the ball. His confidence has disappeared and his replacement, Jack Leach, will play an important role.
Australia will come hard at the left-arm spinner, like Shane Watson did against Simon Kerrigan in the 2013 Ashes, so Leach will have to hold his nerve in the first innings and wait for his chance later on to take wickets.
The other selection question involves Joe Denly, who I would drop for Sam Curran. I don’t know how Denly landed the No4 slot in the first place and Curran’s all-round game would give England another dimension.
England have gaps in their order and need senior players like Root, Jos Buttler and Jonny Bairstow to step up and drag them back into the series.
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