English cricket fans were nervous ahead of the first Ashes test and their fears may well have been confirmed with the home side at 40-3 in the first innings. However, with Joe Root continuing his stunning form of the last 12 months, Alastair Cook’s men were dominant for much of the game and they head to Lord’s with a deserved 1-0 lead.
The Aussies remain favourites for the Ashes but much will depend on the fitness of key strike bowler Mitchell Starc. As for England, the selectors have named an unchanged squad for the second test but in a long series, we may yet see some changes as the weeks progress.
Cause for concern?
England’s poor start at Cardiff saw Alastair Cook, Adam Lyth and Ian Bell dismissed cheaply in the first session. Captain Cook made a welcome return to form against the West Indies and New Zealand and it’s unthinkable that the skipper will be under pressure but will Lyth and Bell feel quite so comfortable?
Yorkshire’s Lyth registered a century against New Zealand and after three matches has a relatively respectable average of 32.16. However, there is a vulnerability outside the off stump which was highlighted again with two dismissals in the slip cordon. As for Bell, the Warwickshire man endured a dismal run of form following a century in the Caribbean but like Lyth, some vital runs in the second innings cements his place for Lord’s.
Of the remaining batsmen, Root, Gary Ballance and Ben Stokes all made contributions in the top six and there are no real concerns over their form going into the second test.
The Moeen conundrum
Worcester’s Moeen Ali enjoyed another productive international game with bat and ball and gives England the luxury of having a proper batsman at number eight. His role in the side remains a mystery however and his position as the team’s recognised spinner owes more to a dearth of slow bowling in the county ranks.
In time, Moeen could replace either Bell or Lyth and become England’s back up spinner. Batting is his stronger suit and he has the quality to move into the top half of the order while his bowling can still provide important back up to someone like Adil Rashid.
Tempted to change?
The modern day England are reluctant to make too many changes in personnel and why would you want to tinker with a team that won so emphatically in Cardiff? As we head to Lord’s however, Middlesex’s Steven Finn makes a strong case for inclusion.
Having remodelled his action, Finn is now back in form and, of course, he has the advantage of playing his County Cricket on this ground with its unique slope. There are doubts that the fragile Mark Wood will complete the series so could Finn step in now with the Durham man returning at Edgbaston?
As you were
The Finn option will be considered but it will be a major surprise if – barring injury – England were to change their final starting XI. Players such as Bell and Lyth need more runs while Ballance remains under pressure after a poor series against the Kiwis but for now, it’s as you were.
Overall, that opening win over Australia was a huge positive for an English side who outplayed their opponents in all areas of the pitch. The tourists are the ones who are actively considering changes with Shane Watson a walking LBW candidate and Starc an injury concern. The hosts will gain great confidence from Cardiff but there’s a long way to go before that Urn is returned.