The Lord’s Test between England and Australia ended in a thrilling draw, but the ramifications of that clash will still be felt greatly when the two historic rivals lock horns again in the third Ashes Test at Headingley beginning on Thursday.
The visitors are one win away from retaining the Ashes urn after just about preserving their 1-0 lead in the five-match series but they will have to cope with the absence of the talismanic Steve Smith at Leeds with concussion ruling the right-hander out of the clash.
As such, England will feel it is their best chance to restore parity in the series as the Ashes returns to Headingley for the first time in over a decade.
Momentum shift with England
While the Aussies will be relieved to have come away from Lord’s with their series lead still intact, the tide has very much turned in England’s favour ahead of the third Test and it is the hosts who will believe they have the wind on their backs.
They came agonisingly close to winning the second Test despite the numerous overs lost due to rain and the absence of Smith will only serve to bolster their hopes further.
The Australian batsman alone has contributed 378 runs in just three innings and has scored more than 150 runs than the second highest run-getter (Rory Burns) in the series.
Despite the horrific nature of Smith’s injury, England will be delighted that they do not have to face him at Headingley and they will be further emboldened by the debut showing of Jofra Archer at Lord’s.
The Barbados-born pacer bowled some devastating and hostile spells at Lord’s which also resulted in Smith’s nasty injury and his emergence will give England plenty of confidence despite the continued absence of veteran James Anderson.
Spotlight falls on Australia’s misfiring top-order
Smith’s absence might send spirits soaring in the England camp but it could not have come at a worse time for the visitors whose top-order has misfired all series.
“It’s always a blow, no doubt about that,” head coach Justin Langer said on Smith’s injury.
“If you take your best players out it always has an impact so we have got to make sure that all the other guys, our senior players and our younger players, all step up and fill what are almost unfillable shoes as he is almost the best player in the world.”
What Langer will want most desperately is for his top-three to step up in Smith’s absence after what has been a dismal showing by them in the two matches. David Warner, Cameron Bancroft and Usman Khawaja have so far aggregated just 64 runs between them and the spotlight will very much be on them at Leeds.
Smith’s official concussion substitute Marnus Labuschagne scored a gritty 59 in the second innings to earn Australia a draw at Lord’s and the right-hander will most definitely keep his place in the squad after that display.
Australia’s pace dilemma
Replacing Smith’s runs is not the only headache being faced by Langer and the Australian team management who also need to do a fine balancing act in the pace department. Pat Cummins and Peter Siddle have been the two pacers to play in both Tests so far while James Pattinson and Josh Hazlewood have featured in one each.
Meanwhile, the 2019 World Cup’s leading wicket-taker Mitchell Starc is yet to get a game and is looking likely to miss out once again while Michael Neser also waits in the wings. The visitors will be wary of giving Cummins a rest at this stage with the No1 ranked pacer leading the Ashes wicket-taking charts with 13 scalps while Siddle has been a reliable third seamer. There is, however, every likelihood that Pattinson returns to playing XI after sitting out the Lord’s clash.
Which pacers Australia lines up with at Leeds remains to be seen but what is certain is that captain Tim Paine will not be wanting to engage in a ‘bouncer war’ with England following Archer’s fiery showing at Lord’s.
“We know what our plans are to beat England. What we’re not going to do is get caught up an emotional battle of who’s going to bowl the quickest bouncers,” Langer said.
“We’re here to win the Test match, not to see how many helmets we can hit.”
England: Jason Roy, Rory Burns, Joe Denly, Joe Root (c), Jonny Bairstow (wk), Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes, Chris Woakes, Jofra Archer, Jack Leach, Stuart Broad.
Australia: David Warner, Marcus Harris, Cameron Bancroft, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Travis Head, Tim Paine (c and wk), Pat Cummins, James Pattinson, Nathan Lyon, Peter Siddle.
Sri Lanka spinner Akila Dananjaya and New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson have both been reported for suspect bowling actions by the match officials from the recently concluded first Test between the two sides at Galle.
This is the second time that the Sri Lankan spinner has been reported for a suspect bowling action inside 10 months and he will now have to undertake a biomechanics assessment inside the next 14 days failing which he stands to be suspended for one year by the ICC.
25-year-old Dananjaya was initially suspended for an illegal bowling action in December, 2018 but he was cleared to bowl again earlier this year after undergoing remedial work on his action.
The Galle clash against New Zealand was Danajaya’s first Test appearance for Sri Lanka since his return with a modified action and he managed to pick up a five-wicket haul in the first innings. With plenty of more home Tests to come for Sri Lanka, the latest development will come as a blow to both Dananjaya and the team management.
🇳🇿's Kane Williamson and 🇱🇰's Akila Dananjaya have been reported for suspect bowling action after the first Test in Galle.https://t.co/mYHAaIs1vu— ICC (@ICC) August 20, 2019
Meanwhile, Williamson has been reported for a suspect action as well after sending down three overs of his part-time off-spin on the final day of the Galle Test. The Kiwi skipper has been called up for a suspect bowling action previously as well and failed a biomechanics assessment of his action in 2014.
Both the players will be allowed to continue bowling with the same action until the results of the biomechanics assessment of their bowling actions is released. Sri Lanka clinched the first Test between the two sides by six wickets and the second and final Test between the two sides gets underway at Colombo on Thursday.
England are ready to hand Jason Roy another opportunity to prove himself as an Ashes opener but even head coach Trevor Bayliss believes he is better suited to the middle order.
Roy averages just nine in five knocks at the head of the innings, having thus far failed to translate his limited-overs brilliance to the five-day format, but is likely to take his role in an unchanged top four in Thursday’s third Specsavers Test at Headingley.
England resisted the temptation to bring in fresh faces by keeping the same 12-man squad after last week’s draw at Lord’s, leaving question marks over the order rather than the personnel.
For now the expectation is for continuity, with Roy partnering Surrey team-mate Rory Burns, captain Joe Root continuing at three despite two failures at Lord’s and Joe Denly – who began his Test career this winter as opener – up next.
But Bayliss was candid in his assessment of the situation, admitting it may be a temporary arrangement.
“We think we’ve got the best seven batters available to us at the moment in England… whether we can change it round and make that (order) any better, I’m not sure, but we’ll certainly have a discussion about it,” he said.
“There’s one or two batting spots in the wrong positions but we’re trying to do the right thing by the team.
“Personally, I think Roy is a middle-order player but we’ve had a set middle order – yes, some of the combos have changed – but the one spot available was at the top.
“Yes, it hasn’t worked yet but he can easily come out and blast a quick hundred. Long-term he’s more middle-order, he’d feel more comfortable there, and he’s doing a job for the team.
“You’d have to ask him exactly how he’s feeling but it’s obviously not quite the same as opening the batting in a white-ball game.”
Even with that in mind, two more failures at Headingley would surely be the end of the experiment and the left-hander could be asked to swap with Denly if that occurs.
Root is sure to stay at first drop for the time being, having requested a promotion he previously shied away from at the start of the series.
The engine room of Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler and Jonny Bairstow could conceivably come out in any order at five, six and seven – depending on the former’s workload with the ball and the latter’s exertions at wicketkeeper, but Bayliss realises that fluidity may not be a permanent solution
“I’d like to see the guys stick to a position and everyone becomes comfortable but it is one of the difficulties,” he said.
“The all-rounders having to back up after bowling or keeping is one of the challenges and exactly what the answer is…we’re trying to work it out.
“There might come a time when we have to put a foot down and say, ‘No, this is what’s happening. Like it or lump it’.”
While the batting continues to provide more questions than answers, Jofra Archer’s incredible debut performance has undoubtedly taken the pace bowling to the next level.
Bayliss, from New South Wales, knows all about the Australian love affair with quick bowlers and is fascinated to see their reaction to Archer’s rapid spells.
“The Aussies have not been backward in coming forward in that respect in years gone by and it will be good to see the shoe on the other foot,” he said.
“It will add a different dynamic to how they play.
“From an English point of view, it is good that it is experiencing what the English batters did facing (Brett) Lee, (Mitchell) Johnson, (Dennis) Lillee and (Jeff) Thomson. It is not impossible to play that but it gets your attention.”
Provided by Press Association Sports