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Ashes Twists and Turns Continue

If a week is a long time in politics, the Ashes must seem an age? In a series that is remarkable for its capricious twists and turns with scant regard for the notions of form or momentum, one can only wonder what next anachronistic puzzle we’ll find at Trent Bridge?

England scored a morale boosting eight-wicket victory at Edgbaston, all but instantly exorcising the demons of Lord’s whilst blunting the tendril of Australian confidence in the process.

As the first three Tests have taught however, the folly of favouritism can be exposed for impostor in the space of an innings, or in prime cases, within a session.

The injury to James Anderson can be deemed manageable, lost in the immediate and jubilant din of victory. He was wicketless at Lord’s and Steven Finn came in with a bang in Birmingham. The reality however, is likely to prove far more problematic for England, with their Test record wicket taker almost a figure of idolatry at Trent Bridge, where he has taken 53 wickets (including six, five-wicket hauls) from eight Tests, with an air of concerted avarice.

Liam Plunkett and Mark Footitt have been called-up, into an extended squad that includes Mark Wood, but whichever way the selectors go, it is hardly like for like, and the pressure on Stuart Broad and Finn will increase as a result. England is expected to resist making further changes with the under pressure Adam Lyth retained despite struggling for scores across the first three Tests.

Australia will not likely be as charitable to its struggling middle-order, with Adam Voges almost certain to be the immolate figure and replaced by fellow Western Australian Shaun Marsh.

The tourists were woeful at Edgbaston and have been mete a full measure of rebuke. They will know however, that with the fourth Test beginning next Thursday, the opportunity to right the wrongs can be swift.

Australia has lost back to back Tests only once since England’s successful 2013 Ashes campaign, when Australia fell flat to a Younis Khan-inspired Pakistan during a low-key two test series in the UAE. They will believe that they can find their form, particularly against an England team itself famed for its inconsistency in recent Test cricket.

Australia’s top three boasts three of the top four run-scorers in this Ashes series to date, whilst their pace attack, at times sporadic but well supported by the dependable Nathan Lyon, will not be of major concern heading to Nottingham.

Michael Clarke’s hegemony on the Australian cricket team will not seriously be considered, despite his recent averages dipping alarmingly below 20 runs a fleeting visit to the crease. The adage of form and class works in his favour, as it did for Ian Bell, who used his elevation to become the first England batsman to score fifties at number three in both innings of an Ashes Test since Robin Smith in 1993.

Australia will also be buoyed by the more traditional Trent Bridge crowd, which like Lord’s bans the Barmy Army’s trumpeter, and keeps a sterner eye on the more raucous elements of its active support. Arguably a shame for theatre and drama of the contest, but it’s unlikely Mitchell Johnson will lose any sleep on the thought?

The issue of the pitch will soon resume its sub-plot in what has already been an intriguing battle of the old enemies. Edgbaston attested beyond all reasonable doubt that Australia is still vulnerable in typical English conditions and to provide anything short of a grassed seaming deck in Nottingham, would be tantamount to sporting treason.


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