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AUTHOR: Star Sports Content

STAR CRICKET PREVIEW: The Ashes 2023 | Second Test

After a thrilling first test, Australia have first blood in this summer’s Ashes series.

However, if the twists and turns of Edgbaston are anything to go by, the battle for the urn will go to the very last ball at the Oval and we can expect more of the same at Lord’s in the second test this Wednesday.

England v Australia 
2nd Men’s Test, Ashes Series
Lord’s, London
Wednesday 28th July – Sunday 2nd July
Live on Sky Sports Cricket HD from 10.15am

The story so far…

England started as they meant to go on, with Zak Crawley crunching the first ball for four, and they put their foot down on an excellent batting surface, going at 5 runs an over as ‘Bazball’ continued at pace. Australia, thanks mainly to Nathan Lyon, did manage to take wickets but had little answer to the brilliance of Joe Root (118 not out), who was still going strong when Ben Stokes declared at 393/8, a decision that has been hotly debated since. There were also plenty of runs from Jonny Bairstow, who made 78 on his return.

It was Australia’s turn to respond and whilst they navigated a tricky opening session it wasn’t long before they were under pressure, with helpful overhead conditions and the magic of Stuart Broad seeing David Warner, Marnus Labuschagne and Steve Smith out in quick succession, but a fantastic century from Usman Khawaja Australia’s middle order came to the rescue with Travis Head (50), Cameron Green (38), Alex Carey (66) and Pat Cummins (38) all pulling them within 7 runs of England’s first innings lead.

England went hard again in the second innings and scored quickly but regular wickets from Cummins and Lyon meant that no batter scored more than 46 runs and Australia were set a 282 to win on the final day, a daunting target with the pitch now spinning.

The Aussies began their chase well with Warner making 36 and the first wicket coming after 61 runs, but the loss of Marnus Labuschagne and Steve Smith again had them on the back foot with Scott Boland sent out as a night watchman. He did well but was removed for 20 and when the middle order axis of Head (16), Green (28), and Carey (20) all departed, it appeared as if Usman Khawaja stood between England and victory. When Stokes bowled him, it looked all over, with Nathan Lyon coming out at 227/8, still 54 runs short of the target. However, Cummins (44no) and Lyon. (16no) defied their lower order status to steer Australia to a famous victory.

Shall we go again?

First test takeaways…

1. Look to middle order batters

Over the last two summers, in particular, facing the Dukes ball has become a significantly easier task for middle order batters. Before the first test, numbers 5 and 6 were averaging a world-leading 53.08 here since the start of 2022, while Nos. 1 to 4 were averaging 31.28 – they’ve only done worse in the West Indies (31.00) in this period.

Whilst Usman Khawaja and Joe Root top scored in the first innings from the top of the order, Johnny Bairstow made 78 from 7 for England on his return whilst Travis Head and Alex Carey both made half centuries down the order to bring Australia within touching distance of the England total. It would be no surprise if we saw more key contributions from down the order.

2. It’s never over until it’s over

There’s precious little between these two sides and momentum swings will be an extremely common occurrence. Both England and Australia were in strong positions at Edgbaston and the final day saw odds change wildly before the winning stand came to the crease. That’s worth thinking about for ante-post and in-play punters as well.

3. Don’t give up on ‘Bazball’ just yet

Many were cursing England’s gung-ho attitude and style of play after Cummins struck the winning runs, but England had Australia on the ropes during much of the final day and were only denied by a pretty sensational closing effort. Had a couple more catches/stumpings been held by Johnny Bairstow, or a couple of bowling errors avoided in both innings – then the result and the narrative may well be very different and we shouldn’t forget that England had won 11 of 13 tests before the series started.

Second Test

We’re off to the home of cricket this week with Australia flying after last week’s dramatic win whilst there’s been plenty of soul-searching in the English press and the usual discourse in the media as the entire nation of Australia gangs up on Ollie Robinson for his send off to Usman Khawaja, whilst Johnny Bairstow has copped flak in the lead up to this week’s action. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Based on pitch images and reported weather conditions (the first four days are set to be cloudy, with rain scheduled to hit at times on Thursday), this should be a tougher batting assignment and we should have a much more ‘English’ pitch here; With no recognised spinner after Moeen Ali was swapped for Josh Tongue, would be a surprise if the groundsmen didn’t prepare a deck that was more in favour of England’s seamers, with Broad, Anderson and Robinson all noting the lack of assistance from the pitch at Edgbaston.

This should not overly harm Australia – Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood are two of the world’s best with ball in hand and if Scott Boland keeps his place then these are the conditions he’s made for, although Mitchell Starc’s no strange to English conditions.

First class stats this summer suggest that bowlers will get more assistance – only three sides have scored more than 300 in 15 games this summer whilst England’s 525 came against an Ireland side that disappointed with ball in hand after being bowled for 172 – and that suggests that the early wickets could go flying here.

Verdict – Overall

There’s very little between both these sides so England being 6/4 whilst Australia are even money for a 2-0 lead feels like an overreaction. The hosts had the better of the first test for four days and were long odds on before the tremendous late stand between Cummins and Lyon, and with conditions at Lord’s sure to suit their bowlers more, it’s worth keeping the faith at the prices, especially considering how deep the middle order and tail is for Brendon McCullum’s side.

Batters – England

A number 3 and an opener took top first innings honours last week but that was on an excellent pitch, and it could be worth looking lower down the order for bigger prices. Last year Colin de Grandhomme top scored with 42 from 7 for New Zealand – a common theme in that series – and since Ben Stokes was captain England’s middle order have stepped up a great deal.

Jonny Bairstow’s wicketkeeping came under fire in the aftermath of the first test but his first innings 78 was a fine effort considering he didn’t get a bat against Ireland here and if he carries that sort of nick then he can outrun odds of 7/1 with starsports.bet that he tops the England scoreboard in the first innings.

Harry Brook – who already has four test centuries in his short career – has been the top bat on four occasions from just 7 matches with Stokes as captain and he was desperately unlucky to suffer a freak dismissal at Edgbaston after scoring 32 from 37 balls. After an unsuccessful stint in the IPL and a lack of time against Ireland, he should have his eye in and there’s every chance he can go well, especially if he comes in with a platform that’s been laid down.

Batters – Australia

Usman Khawaja made history with his superb batting last week as he became only the second Australian player to bat on all five days of a Test, with his 141 in the first innings playing a crucial part in the game. His technique was immaculate then but his job will be harder this time around and a middle order batter appeals at the prices. It could also pay to take on Marnus Labuschagne and Steve Smith again, with Marnus outfoxed by Stuart Broad’s reverse balls in the first test and and Smith suffering two rare failures on a good batting track.

Those three take up the first spots in the market and there’s value to be had in backing Travis Head and Alex Carey to lead the Aussie charge. Both were in good touch at Edgbaston when scoring 50 and 66 in the first innings respectively and with the conditions likely to test the top order they can definitely give backers a good run for their money at 11/2 and 12/1 respectively. Head’s in fine form, having scored 163 in Australia’s first innings in the WTC final, and Carey made 48 and 66 at The Oval.

Bowlers – England

With conditions better set to suit seamers it’ll be a competitive battle for the top first innings wicket taker and the 11/4 about Stuart Broad here catches the eye. He managed to tie with Ollie Robinson for 3 wickets in the first innings at Edgbaston on a surface that wouldn’t have played to his strengths and won this market in the second innings despite England’s defeat. With a fantastic Lord’s record – 108 wickets in 27 Tests here at 27.42 – and his form and fitness confirmed, he will surely play a big part.

Bowlers – Australia

Pat Cummins was a little rusty in the first innings at Edgbaston, but he was back to his very best when taking four second innings scalps and if he’s at his peak then he’ll be right amongst the wickets here. With uncertainty over Scott Boland keeping his place after a difficult Ashes debut and Mitchell Starc maybe a match or two short of full rhythm despite playing in the WTC Final, Cummins will take the beating if he can strike with the new ball.

WILLIAM KEDJANYI


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PROFIT/LOSS (JUNE 2023): LOSS -0.04  points


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