It’s all on the line for Australia at Lord’s

Date: July 19, 2013 / Posted by Glenn Mitchell

Lord’s – the location for the second Ashes Test – is Australia’s most successful English venue with just one defeat sitting alongside 14 victories since 1934.

That one loss came on the last Ashes tour in 2009 when Ricky Ponting’s tourists were handed a 115-run defeat.

Over the next five days the Ashes are pretty much up for grabs.

Should England come away with a win Australia will be required to win the remaining three Tests to wrest back the little urn.

That is highly unlikely so the stakes for the Australian team at the spiritual home of cricket are high.

For Michael Clarke’s outfit to post a win the batting line-up has to fire and that has to start with the skipper himself.

Clarke was bowled for a duck by what may remain the ball of the series from James Anderson in his team’s first innings at Nottingham..

His knock in the second innings was terminated on 23 by Stuart Broad.

There is no doubting Clarke’s ability with the willow with 2012 a landmark year for the skipper with four scores over 200 and an aggregate of 1595 runs at 106.3.

Whilst Clarke is now in the truly elite class with a 93-Test career average of 51.7 he has seldom been able to produce his best away from home.

On Australian pitches he boasts an average of 64.9 compared with just 41.1 abroad.

It is a factor of Clarke’s game that needs to be addressed and the remainder of this series would be a fine place to start.

He will most likely stride to the middle at number four with the most interest in Australia’s line-up centring on who will bat ahead of him.

Ed Cowan was used at first drop at Trent Bridge where he largely gifted his wicket in both innings – in the first he chased a wide delivery and was caught in the cordon off Steve Finn for a first ball duck while in the second he fell in the final over before tea on day four to Joe Root, a man who boasted just ten wickets from his previous 44 first-class matches.

Should Cowan be given a reprieve he will have to score and score big to save not just his place in the side but his international career.

There are several permutations available to the selectors.

It is a given that both Shane Watson and Chris Rogers will open.

The pair will be buoyed by a stand of 84 in Australia’s second innings at Nottingham.

If Cowan is jettisoned the likely replacement is Usman Khawaja who has been on the periphery of the side for quite some time.

David Warner is not an option as he has left England and on his way to Southern Africa where he will play in two first-class matches for Australia A before rejoining the Ashes squad ahead of the third Test.

If Khawaja is not the preferred number three he could swap places with Phil Hughes at number five although the selectors may be loath to shift him after his fighting 81 not out in the series opener.

Regardless of which way the selectors go one thing remains the same – the batsmen need to make runs.

Australia fell just 15 runs short of victory at Nottingham but in reality it was the bowlers who did the bulk of the work – with bat and ball.

The first innings in the opening Test was only saved by a world record stand for the tenth wicket with Hughes and Ashton Agar (98) taking the side from a calamitous 9-117 to 280 all out.

In the second innings the last five wickets contributed 135 of the 296 runs with the last wicket stand between Brad Haddin and James Pattinson accounting for 65 of them.

Starts and scores in the 40s and 50s are not enough.

Several batsmen need to rise to the occasion and score hundreds as there is little prospect of the tail replicating its first Test performance.

For mine, I think the same XI will back-up from Trent Bridge but it will again be the batsmen who will be under the microscope.

The England selectors will be tempted to drop Steve Finn who was lacklustre and wayward in  the first Test, in particular in Australia’s first innings where he went for over five runs per over.

The two reserve players in the home side’s squad of 13 are bowlers – Tim Bresnan and Graham Onions.

Either would be a welcome addition but it is likely to be Bresnan to get the call-up if Finn is omitted.

In his 18 Tests to date he has shown signs that he could be a genuine all-rounder with 57 wickets and a batting average of 31.2.

Once again James Anderson will be the lynchpin of England’s attack, coming off a man-of-the-match winning ten-wicket haul at Trent Bridge.

Off-spinner Graeme Swann will be disappointed with his first-up performance.

Trent Bridge has never been a happy hunting ground with last week’s effort often marred by bowling too short.

He can be expected to bounce back at Lord’s.

The weather has been hot in London during the build-up so a batsman’s pitch is on the cards although there should be more pace and bounce on offer then we saw at Trent Bridge.

Here’s hoping that the second Test is every bit as absorbing as the first and for the sake of the series, and Aussie pride, the tourists can leave Lord’s at one-all with three matches to play.

And here’s hoping that Australia is more judicious in its use of the DRS.

It is hard enough beating this England team without burning your referrals early.

First published on The Roar – theroar.com.au – on 18 July 2013