Home of cricket welcomes the Ashes in what promises to be another nail biting contest.
England start as favorites for the second Investec Ashes Test once more, but will fresh controversy in the Australian camp act as a catalyst for an Australian win?
The Trent Bridge pitch was hell for fast bowlers, just ask them, except James Anderson and Peter Siddle that is. The two experienced campaigners were the only seamers to gain success thanks to their control of line and length. The other quicks on the other hand were largely frustrated by the lack of pace and bounce in the wicket. In the end James Anderson's herculean effort and Siddle's lack of wickets in second innings got England over the line by just 14 runs.
The ECB will be well aware of the strain put on the Anderson in the first Test. The lifeless nature of the pitch meant Broad and Finn weren't as effective and leaked runs, piling on more workload on Anderson. If he is to stay fit for the entirety of both Ashes series, they must prepare better pitches for the whole pack and not just for Swann and Anderson. I suspect the Lord's pitch thus will be more lively than the one at Trent Bridge.
England's key men
I suggested after the last Test match that England wrap the Burnley express in cotton wool until Lord's. At this point I could quote Anderson's record at Lord's, but as Ashes matches have proved again and again, the past is irrelevant and anything can happen on the day. Anderson is a proven performer in England on any ground and will be the biggest threat to Australia once more.
Ian Bell played arguably his best innings for England in the last Test match. However Kevin Pietersen, Jonathan Trott and Alastair Cook in particular remain pillars of the England batting line up. At Trent Bridge, Cook's failure in the first innings resulted in England being bowled out for 215, his half century in the second innings laid the platform for the win, coincidence? England's recent Ashes success' have been built on the powerful starts given to the team by Cook. England fans will be confident that Chef can perform at Lord's, few would bet against it.
Australia's key men
If as expected the pitch at Lord's is a lively one, Pattinson will be the danger man for the Aussies. Whilst Siddle is Mr. reliable, Pattinson has raw pace and an aggressive streak that rivals his senior partner. Furthermore as he showed in the last game, he's no mug with the bat either. If on song, Pattinson ability to bring the ball back into the left handers could be a big threat to England's captain Alastair Cook, and we all know how important his wicket is to England.
Lehman has placed a lot of faith in Watson allowing him to open the batting, his favored spot. No one doubts his talent, but he desperately needs to escape his 50 king reputation. Michael Clarke's test record suggests he's the man to score the bulk of Australian runs. However a closer look at his stats are revealing. The Aussie skipper has scored just 312 runs in his last 14 innings, averaging 22 against England. Meanwhile Watson has scored 734 runs in 9 matches at an average of 46 against the old enemy! The Aussies will want him to play his natural attacking game. Against Anderson and Broad perhaps this aggressive approach is best, and there's no one better than Watson to adopt it. Throw in his tight seam bowling and Watto becomes a very sharp thorn in England's side.
Australian side should remain unchanged aside from Ed Cowan. The no 3 batsman struggled badly in the first Test and looks odds on to be replaced by Usman Khawaja.
England's only selection headache revolves around Steven Finn. Should they drop him? Finn undoubtedly had a poor Test match in Notingham, but as Michael Holding said of the pitch after Day 2 "If you threw me the ball on that pitch, I'd throw it straight back" For a tall, hit the deck hard bowler like Finn the Trent Bridge pitch was hardly ideal. He's much more likely to make an impact at Lord's, which is why Flower could keep faith with him.
image: © Gareth Williams