Ashes: England relaxed while Australia taxed ahead of Lord's Test
Australia find themselves under pressure heading into the second Test at Lord's today, having been outplayed by a seemingly calm England in all three departments in Ashes opener at Cardiff last week
A week can be a long time in cricket, especially in marquee tournaments and series, like the Ashes. Seven days and change ago, the talk was all about Australia continuing on from where they left off in Sydney in January 2014, and England to have any role purely on the basis that they are the second and only other team in the series.
England captain Alastair Cook (right) takes a break from practice with teammates on the eve of the second Ashes Test at Lord’s yesterday. Pic/AFP
Four days in Cardiff have turned the tables, talk and the fortunes around, as England slickly pulled the carpet from under Australia's feet, pounding the Antipodeans in to submission with a new brand of cricket, that is brimming with one of those buzzwords, 'positivity'.
It is Australia that find themselves under pressure heading in to the second Test of the Ashes at Lord's, having been outplayed in all three departments with questions raised about the spots of aging, non-performing stars. Australia are sure to make one change to the XI that played in Cardiff with wicket-keeper Brad Haddin withdrawing from the side, for the time being, for personal reasons.
It is known that Haddin had put his career on hold in 2012 with his daughter diagnosed with a form of cancer. His family is with him in London and it is surmised that it could be his daughter's well-being that is the reason behind is withdrawal. Twenty nine year old back-up wicket-keeper from New South Wales, Peter Nevill is guaranteed his Test debut, having been part of the squad through the West Indies leg prior to the Ashes as well.
Will Watson play?
Michael Clarke, the Australian captain, at the pre-match press conference, denied any knowledge of all-rounder Shane Watson being dropped from the side for the second Test, making way for the young Mitchell Marsh who tonked two centuries in the warm-up games against Kent and Essex prior to Cardiff. Australian newspapers citing a source close to the team broke the news two days before the Test that Watson, with his perennial LBW problems and a fragile body that limits the amount of overs he could deliver, will certainly not be part of the XI that takes the field at Lord's.
Another concern for Australia was the fitness of left arm pacer Mitchell Starc who had cortisone injections administered to his right ankle to continue bowling at Cardiff. Clarke sounded upbeat about Starc's likelihood of taking the field as the bowler seemed to pull through alright after back-to-back days of bowling full tilt in training sessions.
England on the other hand are sitting pretty with the same side from Cardiff expected to feature at the Home of Cricket. Moeen Ali's fitness was the only point of concern for England but Alastair Cook stated that he expects Ali to be in the playing XI.
Moeen Ali may play
Even though Ali wasn't seen taking part in the nets session two days out from the Test, he did bowl in the indoor nets on the eve of the Test and Cook played down any fears of Ali being unfit. The English team came apart at the seams on their last tour down under with Jonathan Trott retiring early in the series, off spinner Graeme Swann walking away from the game after the third Test, and finally Kevin Pietersen axed at the end of the series.
The shoe seems be on the other foot now but Cook thinks it is 'too early' to draw such comparisons between his side in 2013-14 and this touring Australian squad. Despite the obvious differences in form and confidence, Cook conceded advantage to the Australians – perhaps as a tactic to keep pressure away from his young side - calling them 'favourites' as the Aussies only needed to draw the series to retain the famous urn.