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Australia looks good to build on Lord's gains

England will make at least one change, with Jonny Bairstow returning to the Test side in place of Gary Ballance

Australia looks good to build on Lord's gains - Cricket News
Mitchell Johnson produced his most telling burst yet on English soil, which brought him match figures of 6 for 80.
The long gap between the premature end of the Lord’s Test on July 19 and the start of the third Ashes Test at Edgbaston in Birmingham on Wednesday (July 29) has served to heighten the anticipation, provided ample opportunity for players from both sides to indulge in verbals and, most significantly, allowed Chris Rogers time to recover from the dizzy spell that forced him to retire ill at Lord’s.
 
With the series tied 1-1 after England’s convincing win in Cardiff was followed by Australia’s commanding success at Lord’s, the Edgbaston Test could well see a decisive twist in the battle for the Ashes. Australia looked out for the count after imploding in its second innings and slumping to a 169-run pounding in the first Test, but the manner in which it regrouped to sweep the host aside in the second game, by a commanding 405 runs, suggests that with form, confidence and momentum on its side, Michael Clarke’s men would fancy their chances once again.
 
The pitches for the first two Tests have come under scrutiny. If the intent behind producing slow tracks was to blunt Australia’s pace riches, that move backfired at Lord’s. Mitchell Johnson produced his most telling burst yet on English soil, which brought him match figures of 6 for 80 and was well backed up by Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Marsh. However, the lack of response from the playing surface took James Anderson, England’s highest wicket-taker in Tests, completely out of the equation. Anderson, whose 75 wickets at the venue are the most by any bowler, went wicketless for the first time in a Lord’s Test as the lack of bite in England’s bowling was severely exposed by Rogers and Steven Smith, who both registered their highest Test scores in Australia’s first-innings 566 for 8 declared.
 
Heavy rain in Birmingham over the last week has hampered the preparation of the pitch. The surface was liberally coated with grass on Monday, but it is anybody’s guess how it will appear on Wednesday when Alastair Cook and Clarke walk out for the toss.
 
With Rogers almost certain to play after his spell of dizziness at Lord’s that, contrary to fears, had nothing to do with being pinged on the helmet by Anderson, Australia wears a settled look. Even if Rogers were to be ruled out between now and the start of play, Australia has an adequate replacement in Shaun Marsh, who has shown excellent form in the tour games and made a century last week against Derbyshire. Marsh and David Warner both made hundreds in that drawn three-day game, and Clarke – under the microscope with just two hundreds in his last 26 Test innings – got some useful batting time in the second innings as Australia ticked most batting boxes.
 
Peter Nevill, who had an excellent debut at Lord’s after Brad Haddin pulled out due to personal reasons, is likely to keep his spot even though the senior stumper is available in a break from Australia’s policy of putting family first. With Nathan Lyon holding his own admirably in an otherwise pace-dominated attack, Australia should go in with an unchanged XI.
 
England will make at least one change, with Jonny Bairstow set to return to Test cricket after nearly 19 months on the sidelines. Bairstow, 25, played the last of 14 Tests in Sydney in January 2014 and only averages 26.95 in the longer version, but has been in rich form in county cricket for Yorkshire for whom he averages upwards of 100 in four-day cricket this season. That run includes an unbeaten 219, his highest first-class score, against Durham last month, and scores of 139 and 74 not out against Worcestershire immediately after being named in the Test squad.
 
Bairstow will come in for the axed Gary Ballance, whose No. 3 spot will be occupied by Ian Bell, who will be playing on his home ground. The experienced right-hand batsman has just one meaningful score in the series – 60 in the second innings in Cardiff – and could be fighting for his future just like Adam Lyth, the opening batsman, though England will take heart from the consistency and class of Cook and Joe Root, who will bat at No. 4.
 
As much as the batting, England will be worried about where the 20 wickets needed to win the Test will come from. Broad has been impressive in patches and Mark Wood has begun brightly before fading in his later spells, but Anderson seldom has two bad games in a row, so that is something that will encourage the home side.
 
Both teams have made capital of winning tosses in this series so far, but if the track retains its grassy appearance, then the captain that hits it lucky will have a tricky call to make.
 
Teams (likely)
England
: Alastair Cook (capt), Adam Lyth, Ian Bell, Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow, Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler (wk), Moeen Ali, Stuart Broad, Mark Wood, James Anderson.
 
Australia: David Warner, Chris Rogers, Steven Smith, Michael Clarke (capt), Adam Voges, Mitchell Marsh, Phil Nevill (wk), Mitchell Johnson, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Nathan Lyon.

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