Glaring contrast in talent
Updated: 2013-07-23 07:21
By Mark Ray (China Daily)
The Australians' whopping loss in only four days at Lord's in the second Test makes a mockery of their gallant fightback a week earlier at Trent Bridge.
That fightback was built on teenage debutant Ashton Agar's unexpected 98 batting at No 11. Now, that innings looks even more like a boyhood dream come true.
There are no hiding places in Test cricket. Australia's limitations and England's numerous strengths were confirmed at Lord's.
The loss was Australia's sixth straight. In their past seven Tests, Australia's batsmen have made two centuries. They haven't made one so far this series, and at Lord's managed only two half-centuries and they came in the hopelessly lost cause of Australia's second innings. Too little, too late.
So where to for Australia?
The situation is simple: Australia has to win the next Test to prevent England from keeping the Ashes safe until the return series in Australia later in the year. To do that, Australia has to take 20 wickets, so the bowling has to be at full strength.
The official edict to England's groundsmen to produce dry pitches means there'll be footmarks outside the right-handers' leg stump (off stump for Australia's three left-handers) for home spinner Graeme Swann in the second half of matches.
Agar's left-arm spin is tidy but not overly threatening. Australia could replace him with off-spinner Nathan Lyon, who is unlikely to be able to exploit those footmarks as effectively as Swann.
Leg-spinner Fawad Ahmed took eight wickets for Australia A in the recent match in Zimbabwe and is worth a punt for Old Trafford, which is likely to suit spinners.
Australia could even play Agar and Ahmed, as both will be able to turn the ball from the footmarks toward the stumps, whereas if Lyon hits the footmarks he'll spin the ball into nowhere land outside the leg stumps of England's predominantly right-handed batting lineup.
Who should make way for Ahmed?
If not Agar, then pace bowler James Pattinson, who has been below par so far. Australia cannot afford to drop a batsman.
Clarke must move up to No 4 at least. As Australia's only world-class batsman, he has to take England on. That way he might have 20 or so runs to his name before Swann comes on to bowl.
And it'd be handy if Clarke won the toss at Old Trafford and the Australians could bat first to give their spinner/spinners use of the wearing pitch late in the match.
The third Test starts on Aug 1 at Manchester, the same date and venue where Allan Border's Australians regained the Ashes in 1989 and began a sequence of eight series wins over England.
Right now, that looks like a sick joke rather than a portent of good things for Australia.
Mark Ray can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
(China Daily 07/23/2013 page23)