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Inconsistent England hopes to stitch up series

Shaun Marsh could be drafted into Australia XI; host waits on Wood’s ankle before finalising plans

Inconsistent England hopes to stitch up series - Cricket News
England hopes to win back to back matches to seal Ashes victory.
England heads into the fourth Ashes Test against Australia, starting at Trent Bridge on Thursday (August 6), fully aware that it is yet to string back-to-back victories together in Tests in 2015.

Since drawing the series opener against West Indies in Antigua in April, England's next seven Tests have had it alternate between winning and losing.

Alastair Cook's men currently lead the series 2-1 after victories at Cardiff and Edgbaston, and a win here would seal the series for the host.

It would also be without James Anderson, who took an Ashes-best 6 for 47 at Edgbaston but was subsequently ruled out of the fourth Test with a side strain. It is the first time Anderson has missed a Test in three years and meant that he wouldn’t be able to add to his exceptional record at the venue, where he has returned 53 wickets in eight Tests, including ten during England's thrilling 14-run win in the Ashes clash in 2013.

England will probably want to recall Mark Wood, whose absence through injury paved the way for Steven Finn to take a Test-best 6 for 79 on his return to the side at Edgbaston. But it would have to decide if Wood is over the ankle trouble that forced him out, with Liam Plunkett and Mark Footitt, the uncapped Derbyshire left-armer, standing by.

England rectified its top-order problems to a certain extent by dropping Gary Ballance and promoting Ian Bell to No. 3. Its opening partnership, however, still seems shaky with Adam Lyth failing to impress so far.

But Lyth looks set to keep his place despite managing just 72 runs in six innings at an average of 12 so far this series.

Stuart Broad, set to lead England's attack in the absence of Anderson, is just one wicket away from joining Test cricket's 300-wicket club on his Nottinghamshire home ground.
For Australia, Michael Clarke is desperate to end a mediocre run of form. Scores of ten and three at Edgbaston left Clarke with a meagre series aggregate of 94 runs in six innings at an average of under 19. But a defiant Clarke dismissed suggestions he no longer has the desire to do well in Test cricket. 

It is Adam Voges, averaging 14.60 this series, however, who is in greatest danger of being replaced, with Shaun Marsh the backup batsman.

Australia will dearly love more of the aggression from Johnson that helped him produce two rip-snorting deliveries that yielded the wickets of Jonny Bairstow and Ben Stokes in the space of three balls during England's first innings at Edgbaston.

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/Mark Footitt, Steven Finn.

Australia: David Warner, Chris Rogers, Steven Smith, Michael Clarke (capt), Shaun Marsh, Mitchell Marsh, Peter Nevill (wk), Mitchell Johnson, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Nathan Lyon.

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