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First published on Kettle Mag http://www.kettlemag.co.uk/article/ashes-bounce-back-how-can-england-regain-momentum
It has been a very strange English summer. The weather has been great at stages and sometimes beyond our expectations, but then in true British spirit, it becomes miserable again and more of the ‘same old, same old’ situation. This, coincidentally, is a clear reflection of English cricket this summer.
Put aside the whole Pietersen Saga and the Moores era and the Tests read; won one, lost one, won one, lost one and now, won the first test in Cardiff emphatically and then embarrassed the week later at Lords.
If the trend continues then England will be victorious in this week's Ashes match and all will be rosy again. My glass isn’t half full, it is overflowing and with this confidence, I think they can beat Australia.
A lot depends on the start and so far winning the toss has been key. England have taken Ballance out of the batting attack and this will push Bell up to three, Root at Four and Bairstow at five. I think this is a positive step and will force England to attack the Australian bowlers. With the loss of Ryan Harris, Australia don’t have anyone to dry up the runs. They can take wickets but will leak runs in the process.
The key to victory is taking the Australian wickets, something which the team struggled with at Lords last time. I just don’t however see another match where James Anderson takes zero wickets - it just won’t happen. At Edgbaston, with the swing and likely overcast conditions, this will favour Anderson and Broad. Mark Wood will keep plugging away and Moeen always contains a surprise as well as a knack of dismissing Warner too. Ben Stokes has worked all summer, his bowling is improving and a Flintoff-like spell is destined for him in this Ashes series.
Besides the usual collapse of the top order and the second innings fiasco, England’s batting has improved. The captain is leading from the front and the positive intent instilled by Farbrace and now Bayliss is there to encourage the fans too. What England must do is make sure they stay in the crease.
This is Test cricket at its finest and attacking the bad balls is your prerogative and leaving the good ones is a skill in itself. This morning, KP has interfered again, but this time in a positive way. He has told the English batsmen that Mitchell Johnson is in their heads and that they can overcome his bouncers with a little grit and determination. Only a few series ago, ‘Mitch’ was struggling with his bowling and was mocked by English fans across the country.
So how will England bounce back? Some clever batting is definitely required; a big hundred from one of the top five is mandatory and will give the team confidence when in the field. Bowlers like a good defense as it gives them the freedom to try a few things and ultimately get the wickets.
I personally would keep the four seamers and one spinner approach and wouldn’t include Rashid yet. Rashid will be a good English test cricketer but I feel that the Aussie’s will target him and give him a bit of a bashing. If the pitch is created to be bowler friendly, I feel that the English will utilise it better and will ultimately result in a 2-1 lead going into game four.