It seems that Australia can’t build-up up to a Test match without having to answer questions on team unity. This week is proving no different after legal documents were leaked on Tuesday claiming that Mickey Arthur – sacked just 16 days before the current Ashes series – was the “meat in the sandwich” keeping Michael Clarke and Shane Watson apart. The Seven Network Report (due to be broadcast on Wednesday) alleges that Arthur said Clarke believes Watson to have a “cancerous” influence on the dressing room. The Aussies have once again come out fighting in defence of their team but what impact will it have when play gets underway on Thursday? Darren Lehmann has already done a superb job of galvanising a split team since he took over three weeks ago. If anything this further indictment against the team may cajole the team even more. Australia have seen how close they were to overcoming England in Nottingham when they were seemingly united. They would rather a repeat of that, surely, than the barren tour of India, when they were whitewashed 4-0 with Arthur at the helm.
Australia enjoy playing at Lord’s. They would certainly rather focus on their return to the Home of Cricket than the furore caused by Tuesday’s leaked legal documents. Since the turn of the 20th Century, the Aussies have lost just two Tests at Lords in the 27 matches they have played against England in north London. Yes, England won in 2009 by 115 runs to double their tally of wins since 1900 but Australia will be grasping onto anything going into Thursday’s match as they look to level the series.
Steven Finn was both expensive and largely ineffective at Trent Bridge. In the crucial second innings, tellingly captain Alastair Cook only bowled him for 10 overs. This may be a little harsh on the 6ft 7in seamer but by his own admission before this series, he felt he has failed to progress adequately enough since bursting onto the scene three years ago. In Nottingham, Finn took match figures of 2 for 117 in 25 overs and was unable to knock over Ashton Agar in the first innings, when he bowled bumper after bumper to no avail. Finn is a knowledgeable cricketer, who has the full support of England’s hierarchy behind him, and he will realise that he must provide better backing for the likes of James Anderson and Stuart Broad if he wants to keep his place in the team. Graham Onions and Tim Bresnan are more than capable of taking his place. Before the series it was touch and go whether Bresnan would replace Finn, who has been selected for the last five Tests against New Zealand. In the end England decided to go with Finn’s ability to bowl wicket-taking deliveries out of nowhere, thanks to his tall frame. His back-to-back dismissals of Watson and Ed Cowan showed they weren’t wrong. To compound Finn’s worries, Chris Tremlett was called upon to help England with their preparations for the second Test on Tuesday after a long absence through injury.
The Lord’s surface in the early 2000s was a guaranteed green top that would swing and seam early on before flattening out later in the match. In recent years Mick Hunt has prepared a much drier pitch. At Trent Bridge, Agar bowled commendably to take two wickets with a good economy rate in the second innings, considering it was his debut. But Lehmann and the other selectors could do worse than bring in Lyon to partner Agar. Lyon was unlucky to lose his place to the youngster after some solid performances in India. Of course, it is difficult to see whom he would replace out of the three Aussie seamers, who all produced the goods last week. But the one thing Australia will be wary of – especially after their last tour here in 2009 – is not playing enough spinners, when they famously left out Nathan Hauritz altogether for the deciding Test at The Oval. Ricky Ponting’s side went onto lose the match with many pointing to the fact that part-time spinner Marcus North had to bowl 44 overs to ‘Bunsen burner’ as the reason why they suffered defeat.