Victory doesn’t paper over Aussie top order cracks
DOES AUSTRALIA NEED TO CHANGE THE BOWLING ATTACK FOR LORDS ?
Sitting over 350 worth of Test wickets on the pine for the opening match of an Ashes series was a massive call by selectors. But the pace trio of Pat Cummins, James Pattinson and Peter Siddle got the job done at Edgbaston. So much so that Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc, the two men Australia have leaned on for so long will find themselves carrying a bit of the bowling workload in a Worcester tour game this week in a bid to further their cause for selection at Lords.
The mantra among the selectors, coach Justin Langer and Paine, before and now during the Ashes, has been all about how good it is for Australian cricket to be able to leave out proven Test players, with the ability to pick their preferred attack depending on conditions.
Stream the 2019 India Tour of West Indies on KAYO SPORTS. Every T20I, ODI and Test LIVE on your TV or favourite device. Get your 14-day free trial >
Siddle was the most talked about selection in Birmingham, edging out Starc in the end, but he earned high praise for his effort from Paine.
"Even today on a day-five wicket he took no wickets but he was still a handful," Paine said after play at Edgbaston. "He asks questions all the time and with the Dukes ball in English conditions he is a real handful".
That doesn't mean he plays at Lords, but the break between the first and second Tests is eight days, one of the largest in a compact series. Australia puts their foot on England's throat first up, and the thought of changing a winning team is always one fraught with danger. The final three Tests are more back to back, that could be when the bowling changes are demanded.
There's no expectation the same bowlers will bowl all five games, but now might not be the time for change.
"We've got two world class bowlers sat on the sidelines raring to go," Paine said. "I imagine they'll bowl in the tour game and then put their hand up for selection. We'll look at the pitch when we get to Lord's and then make our selections on what will be the best combination to get us 20 wickets. We think we have a lot of different options."
DOES CAMERON BANCROFT GET ANOTHER CHANCE ?
Marcus Harris was the find of the Australia summer according to plenty of experts, with Allan Border even declaring he looked "every bit a Test opener" as the leading run scorer during the series against India. The Victorian didn't fill his boots like a couple of his teammates against Sri Lanka, but two of those guys, Joe Burns and Kurtis Pattison, didn't even make the Ashes 17-man squad, so it's fair to say those runs didn't mean anything.
So that made it even more perplexing that Cameron Bancroft was preferred to Harris at Edgbaston. Consider also that Matthew Wade earned a recall because he "pounded the door down" with a 1000-run Sheffield Shield season, and three hundreds on the Australia A tour.
Harris scored more Shield runs than Wade, plus all his Test runs, plus a hundred and a fifty for Australia A. Put all that together and Harris was easily the most stiff batsman to miss the opening Test.
Bancroft's ungainly performance in the match only made questions around his actual selection even more pertinent. Out of the glory of the drought-breaking win, Bancroft emerged as the man most under the pump. He'll likely play at Lords, because of that whole don't-change-a winning side thing. But a big knock from Harris at Worcester will make his case ultra-compelling for a reinstatement at the top of the order with David Warner should Bancroft deliver the sort of return he dished up at Birmingham. Bancroft may be the "best short leg" fielder in the world according to Test great and team mentor Steve Waugh, but he's in the team to get runs.
WHAT CHANGES CAN WE EXPECT FROM ENGLAND?
England will be rattled to have lost this Test, having twice been in dominant positions - once when they had Australia on the ropes at 8-122, and again when they ground out a 90-run first innings lead.
It all went pear-shaped after that, with Australia running roughshod over their oldest rivals on days four and five to hand them a humiliating 251-run defeat.
Immediately, experts and punters alike were calling for mass changes to the England side ahead of the Lord's Test starting Thursday week.
Captain Joe Root urged selectors not to make any 'shotgun decisions', but the likes of Moeen Ali, Jonny Bairstow and Jason Roy will all come under scrutiny after misfiring at Edgbaston.
Injured paceman Jimmy Anderson looks certain to miss the Lord's Test - and perhaps more after that - with a calf injury aggravated after bowling just four overs on day one, with exciting, uncapped quick Jofra Archer set to take his spot.
But that comes with its own concerns, considering Archer himself is dealing with a side strain injury.
"If someone's declared fit to play, and there's a unanimous decision to pick someone, you've got to put full trust in that," Root said after play.
"With Jofra, we're in a slightly different situation where he'll have played a lot of cricket in between and we'll have a clearer idea of where he's at."
Moeen appears to be in the biggest danger, as Nathan Lyon's bunny struggles to hit the ball off the square and has been ineffective with the ball against Australia for the past six Ashes Tests.
There are already calls for left-arm spinner Jack Leach, who went wicketless as the seamers annihilated Ireland a fortnight ago but scored a 92 in his role as nightwatchman, to replace Moeen - but it might not be the only unforced change.
Jason Roy was lambasted on social media for his wild charge down the wicket on day five that led to his stumps being destroyed, while Jonny Bairstow (8, 6) had an unhappy time with both the bat and behind the stumps.
"We'll turn up to Lord's and make sure in the next few days we don't make any shotgun decisions," Root added.
"We're very clear about how we're going to select the squad and go from there."
WHAT CAN WE EXPECT FROM THE REMAINING PITCHES?
Australian teams - in the Jimmy Anderson era especially - have become accustomed to arriving in England to the sight of greentops and the prospect of the moving ball wreaking havoc.
That's why the dry and hard deck offered up at Edgbaston this week caught a few people off guard.
The theory was that it might blunt Australia's pace bowling battalion, who are used to fast, bouncy wickets at home, while still the likes of Anderson and Chris Woakes were still able to generate serious swing due to overcast conditions.
However it backfired in a big way, with Lyon running riot on day five on a wearing pitch as he claimed six wickets in an inspired performance.
"Conditions were in his favour today and he exploited them very well," Root said of Lyon.
"As a top-order batter, you pride yourself on being able to get through and survive a number of different surfaces, conditions and situations.
"It was a good bit of bowling and that can happen on those types of wickets when someone gets it right on the money."
But the signs were there early on, with the Australian off-spinner's first ball of the Test spinning back sharply - narrowly missing Joe Root's off-stump.
Considering England's lack of a frontline spinner - and certainly not one in the class of Lyon, who on Sunday became the fourth Australian to notch 350 Test wickets - wickets that offer assistance to the spinners will certainly appeal to Justin Langer and his team.
It would surprise nobody if the sprinklers are left on a little longer at Lord's, Headingley, Old Trafford and the Oval in the coming weeks.
HOW LARGE DOES STEVE WAUGH LOOM OVER THIS SERIES ?
If Australian coach Justin Langer could have two hero-posters on his wall, they would be of Ricky Ponting and Steve Waugh. So it's no shocker that Langer has embedded those two men in his camp for the biggest two events of his coaching tenure. Ponting brought out the best in plenty during the World Cup, and you get every sense Waugh is doing the same during the Ashes.
For so long a background character in Australian cricket, despite his legendary standing, Waugh has emerged as a man happy to embrace the spotlight of being part of an Ashes series and his presence doesn't just help Australia. The locals seem spooked by the tourists having Waugh in their camp, because of the damage he inflicted on them as a batsman, but more so as a captain. The term "mental disintegration" has re-entered the conversation around an Australian team which had slipped towards being too nice. They never really were, and Tim Paine and Langer always spoke about their team playing combative cricket, without going anywhere near the infamous "line" which got previous teams in so much trouble.
Waugh has joined in, talking about how the team would indeed be combative.
"There won't be any shrinking violets" out there he said before the Test. Waugh used to decimate England teams for fun. He was the last captain to win an Ashes in England in 2001, having begun his domination over the old enemy as part of a 1989 outfit dubbed, by the locals, the worst team ever to tour. He has that sort of supreme confidence that isn't ego, but something much better. Waugh still has a hold over English cricket, and every day he spends with this current team, keeps the enemy fearing just how much better he will make them.