Australia haven’t lost six Test matches in a row since 1984. They may never get a better chance than at Lord’s this week; a picturesque, historic setting for their latest tilt at immortality.
In the previous five defeats they have used 18 players. Ed Cowan, Dave Warner, Chris Rogers and Shane Watson have all opened; Phil Hughes, Michael Clarke and Cowan have all batted at number three; the ‘keeper has changed three times; five different bowling attacks have been used; they’ve picked four different spinners and Mitchell Johnson played once as well. Still with us?
This Test may be the best chance they have of finally picking an unchanged side, as the bowling attack mostly did its job and of the batsmen only Cowan looks in danger. You’ve probably already spotted the enormous pipe-bomb in the works: Cowan. Nobody really likes Ed Cowan; combining a cautious mindset with the ability to read was never going to endear himself to Australians, and that was before he spent longer on the toilet than in the middle at Trent Bridge. That said, it’s always difficult to differentiate between public opinion of a player, which is almost always reactionary and based on the last couple of hours (we’ll come back to this), and what the management thinks, which is generally based more on contribution over a period of time. The problem for Cowan is that the old management, which was very much in his corner and under whom he performed fairly well in India, has been hurled under a passing kangaroo.
His saving grace may be that Australia, despite picking a squad so big it would make Samit Patel’s lunch look like a drop in the ocean, basically forgot to pick any batsmen. If they apply the term liberally enough, Usman Khawaja may just about qualify and could come in at Lord’s, but he is the only option. Warner has been sent off to naughty boy nets in Zimbabwe and Matt Wade is, well, rubbish. There is no one else.
Of the bowlers only Mitchell Starc could be sent packing; one game in a row is an unusually long streak for him and he was the least impressive of the attack. At the time of writing, the blu-tac keeping Ryan Harris together is holding firm so he could come in, as could Jackson Bird, who actually looked quite good in the winter. Plus he provides no end of puns for us to use on Twitter when Jonathan Trott is boring everyone into submission so we’re eagle for him to play.
England’s selection ‘dilemma’ is, once again, whether to pick Steve Finn or Tim Bresnan. If it wasn’t for lots of exciting DRS arguments and Australians discovering cancer this debate would’ve engulfed us all in a swirling mass of tedium so thank God for Oliver Holt. Which may be the first genuinely unique opinion ever expressed on 51allout.
Anyway, Finn’s performance in Nottingham wasn’t actually that bad. To return to the Cowan Theorem: public perception of his performance is skewed by his two overs on the final day, whereas England are more likely to take the whole picture into account. He was on a hat-trick on the first evening and bowled a superb spell late on day four as Australia revved up the collapso engines. It’s an unwritten rule that there must be one England player under extreme pressure at all times; since Ian Bell scored 100 last innings it can’t be him for at least another week, so Finn is the man in possession. Finn has taken more wickets at a better average than Bresnan, and he’s much more dreamy too. He should play.
All five days to be abandoned due to the heatwave.