“You hit me once, I hit you back” Ironically, that was the tagline of the 2013 Ashes played in England. The tagline would be absolutely apt for the ongoing edition of the Ashes, where the two sides have played more of a boxing match, than a cricket series. England began the round in style, by delivering a hard punch to the visitors. The Kangaroos though, with resilience in their blood, struck back fiercely, and now the Ashes lies perfectly in the balance.
England would be pleased to return to Edgbaston as it has time and again proven to be a happy hunting ground for them. Since the last decade, England have played 7 matches in Birmingham, and have emerged victorious in 4 games. The most iconic game played here was the 2005 Ashes game, which the hosts won by an agonizing margin of 2 runs. A game in the 2009 Ashes too was played here, but it ended in a draw.
The test beginning on Wednesday in several ways will shape up in the direction in which the series is headed. A victory for Australia will nearly mean that they will be retaining the Ashes. Now that is a feat which they haven’t achieved in England since the last 14 years. Knowing Michael Clarke, he definitely would want to win the series, and not just retain the urn. England though, need to be at their best, if they are to possess a challenge to the Australians.
Below, are the five things that we expect from the third Ashes test –
1. Improved batting performance by England:
Embarrassing was probably the only word to describe England’s batting in the Lord’s test. If the first innings was pathetic, their batting show in the second innings was far worse. The hosts seemed to be haunted by the sheer menace of Mitchell Johnson, who had a ball at the Lord’s. In an attempt to improve their batting, the England selectors have axed the underperforming Gary Ballance, and have called up Jonny Bairstow. Bairstow, has been in the form of his life and he surely will enjoy batting in Birmingham. With this move, a consequence would be that Joe Root would be promoted up the batting order. This will reflect positivity as Root off late has been in sparkling form. Thus, one can expect a better batting performance from the hosts.
2. Ruthless approach by Australia to be persisted with:
The Australian side is like a pack of lions. Once they smell blood, they simply tear apart their opposition. The Aussies smelt blood after the Lord’s test, and now would be eager to inflict further damage on to the hosts. With the likes of Mitchell Johnson and the Marsh brothers in great nick, Australia unquestionably would carry on with their aggressive performance. Steve Smith, who has been on a dream run would want to increase his century count further, and there would be no better venue than Birmingham to do that. Michael Clarke too would want to be among the runs, thus a positive outing is expected from him as well.
3. High individual scores:
Birmingham traditionally is known to be a paradise for the batsmen. When the recent form of some batsmen comes under light, one can expect a run fest at Edgbaston. Michael Clarke, of the current lot of Australians has been the most successful batsman in Birmingham. In 2 games, Clarke has 202 runs to his name, including a ton here. Alastair Cook too thrives at this very venue and that can be supported by the fact that his best test score was brought up here. The toss too has minimal bearing in Edgbaston. Teams usually prefer to bat first, but here, things go the other way round. Teams bowling first, have won 4 out of the 7 games played here since the last 10 years. While the runs per wicket scored here in the first innings state 32.11, the second innings figure is slightly higher at 32.69. Even if either side has to chase here, then that too shouldn’t be a daunting task.
Going into the third test, the series is critically placed. A mistake by either side in the upcoming game could have drastic effects on their campaign. Thereby, it becomes highly imperative for the players to keep their cool and grind it out in the middle. The Australians surely would revert to sledging in order to baffle the hosts. The England side has a few mercurial names such as Ben Stokes and James Anderson. The Australian sledging unit, led by the ever outspoken David Warner will surely target them and would want to ruffle them without a doubt. On the contrary, England too might adapt to sledging if it reaps dividends for them.
5. An aggressive England bowling unit:
Even though Birmingham is a haven for the batsmen, it still has something minute for the bowlers, unlike the wicket laid out for Lord’s. The bowlers will have to make the most out of the overhead conditions present. Who better than James Anderson to exploit that? With overhead conditions forecasted, it will only make sense if England remain aggressive with the ball. The Lord’s test was simply a horror run for them, as the bowlers struggled miserably. In Birmingham though, the England bowlers would be more at home. Expect the duo of Anderson and Broad to deliver some serious chin music to the Australians.