Barely a few short months ago, England swaggered into an Ashes series more confident of victory than they had been in more than a generation. Australia were a shambles, changing their coach about an hour before the first Test and selecting their side almost entirely at random, throwing the likes of Ashton Agar into the side despite the fact they were yet to get round to actually playing any cricket. And yet now, the worm has truly turned. Australia have a settled side, at least until Ryan Harris melts down into the sort of goo last seen in Ghostbusters II, while England have question marks galore going into a must win-second game.
What happened at Brisbane has been dissected a million times, mostly by websites that actually focus on the cricket, rather than the players’ facial hair. To summarise the general opinion, England were actually okay with the ball but absolutely diabolical with the bat, both innings representing the culmination of a long term decline in their batting fortunes. Australia were decent, not much more (particularly with the bat) but then they didn’t need to be.
For the second Test, the shadow of the third already looms large. Not only do England generally do about as well in Perth as people selling 35″ by 25″ portraits of Lostprophets singer Ian Watkins on eBay, but there’s the small matter of just a three day gap before hostilities resume. Which bowlers will collapse under the strain of bowling on Adelaide’s super-flat drop in pitch? Will Australia try and settle for a draw in Adelaide, fancying their chances of a win on the WACA’s comedy trampoline pitch?
The one thing Australia have lacked for some time now is stability. And yet here they are naming an unchanged side well in advance of the game. We should mention that one of our sources tried to convince us that Michael Clarke won’t play, due to the ankle injury he picked up recently, but we’re not falling for that old trick. Hence it’s very much a case of hoping for the same again for Clarke and co.
Of course, expecting Mitchell Johnson to do anything twice in a row might be rather optimistic, so it remains to be seen if he can blast his way through once again on a pitch much less conducive to banging the ball in around his feet. The support acts of Peter Siddle, Ryan Harris and Nathan Lyon might well be required to step up and take centre stage this time.
In terms of the batting, most eyes will be on George Bailey but Devereux could do with a few runs. He obviously remains the pre-eminent example of humanity in the 21st century, but it’d probably be best if he did get a score, just because people have incredibly short memories.
All change for England, with Jonathan Trott already home and catching up with the Doctor Who 50th anniversary special and Chris Tremlett likely to step aside after a largely unthreatening performance in Brisbane. In their places will come two more players, although they could be just about anybody. Both Steve Finn and Boyd Rankin bowled themselves out of contention with rubbish performances in Alice Springs, which leaves the fit-again Tim Bresnan as the most likely bowling option. Or England could pick Monty Panesar, mainly to see how many Australians can get themselves banned for abusing him.
Gary Ballance is the most likely option in the middle order, based on one reasonable innings in that last practice match. Jonny Bairstow hasn’t exactly set the world on fire, while Ben Stokes is the definition of meh. With Matt Prior’s career going down the toilet at a frightening rate, picking the extra ‘proper’ batsman seems to be the logical step.
The pitch to be an extension of the Nullarboor. No fewer than four fast bowlers to literally crumble to pieces. Devereux to end up bowling about 30 overs in the second innings as England hold on for the draw that they really, really don’t want.