England's victory in the 1st Test has seen the interest jump exponentially in the Old Dart, with visions of grandeur and regaining the old urn now firmly in their sights. Australia meanwhile is licking its wounds and cataloguing the cost of what was a disaster from lunchtime on the first day onwards.
The Australian bowlers just didn't bowl very well at times, and any plans they may have had for the batsmen appeared not to be followed. In Australia the bowlers bowled a full line on or about off stump to Joe Root to draw him forward without footwork. It wasn't always successful but it was more often than not. Root is certainly much improved since that series, but second ball he hit a ball just like that straight to the keeper - who dropped it. It proved to be a difference, numerically if nothing else. Even chasing 300 batting last on that wicket would have been almost impossible, and the start Root was given also protected the lower order from a relatively new ball. At 4/43 a score of over 400 was unlikely. The 87 runs the last three wickets put on was also a concern, though there was a certain amount of luck involved in that as well.
Australia's batting wasn't a loss either, but the method of dismissals probably was. Voges wafting twice outside his off stump, especially in the final moments of Day 2, was a concern. Watson as always, LBW in both innings. Haddin not the force at number seven as he was in 2013/14. Starts were made but not built on. That will happen, and will be rectified. The batsmen will not always succeed. But it was the fact that England's much maligned attack looked far more threatening, and swung the ball a hell of a lot more, than Australia's that will pose the most burning questions. With Ryan Harris now out of the equation, and the possibility of Mitchell Starc also being sidelined, suddenly Australia's attack looks a lot more threadbare and vulnerable than even a week ago. It can be a long time in cricket.
While England will now likely field an unchanged team in the coming matches and hope to cling to this lead, they will be acutely aware that they have had such a lead in their two recent Test series, before losing the advantage and finishing with a 1-1 score line. Questions remain over the top three in the batting line up, and given the conditions favoured their bowlers in Cardiff one wonders if they will do the same at Lords.
Australia's questions are many and varied, but given the recent history of team selections, the only one we are likely to see is Siddle in for Starc is he is unfit to play. Adam Voges will feel under pressure, more for the manner and timing of his dismissals in the 1st Test than anything to do with his form. He deserves an opportunity to rectify that, but as with anyone in his position, his age begins to nullify his chances fairly quickly at this stage of his career.
It is probably useless even bringing up Shane Watson's name at this point, given that no matter what he does or doesn't do, he just keeps being selected. 29 overnight at the start of day 3 and the chance to prove his worth, he was not only dismissed LBW for the addition of only one run, he also burned another referral in doing so. Then, in the second innings... yep, he did it all again. It must be galling and depressing for young cricketers around Australia to see him get so many chances without succeeding, knowing that they will either never get an opportunity at this level, or if they do they will never have as many opportunities to succeed if they put up similar numbers as Watson does. Mitch Marsh, or even Shaun Marsh, would be a better bet at six. No one can see it happening.
The series is now set up nicely, and we will be able to see if England can take on the front running role and win back the Ashes, or whether Australia can regroup and show the kind of form they have since this series two years ago.
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