Ashes 2013: Four talking points as England eye third Test & series win
Ashes 2013: Harry Kemble looks at four talking points ahead of the third Test which begins at Old Trafford on Thursday
Pietersen set to retain his spot
After undergoing rigorous rehabilitation on his left calf, Kevin Pietersen looks likely to be picked ahead of James Taylor for the Third Test. The 33-year-old was put through his paces by the England medical team when the Manchester rain relented enough for the South African-born batsman to sprint across the outfield. Taylor did look likely to get his chance but England, who can retain the Ashes if they avoid losing this Test, would far prefer a near-fit Pietersen over Taylor, whose Test career spans just two matches. Against a faltering Australian bowling attack, there is no reason to suggest that Taylor would let his team-mates down though. Other changes England could make are Monty Panesar or Chris Tremlett coming in for Tim Bresnan. But both seem unlikely when you consider the dominance of England in the series so far. The old adage “if it ain’t broke, why fix it?” springs to mind. Bresnan snapped up four wickets at Lord’s in 21 economical overs, as well as adding 99 with Joe Root in the second innings. Panesar has failed to reach the heights of the winter tour of India this season and Tremlett, if he played in the third Test, would be making his first international appearance in 15 months.
One step at a time
Speaking ahead of the third Test, Alastair Cook said: “One of the strengths we have as a side is trying to break it down to one hour at a time and not looking too far ahead.” England’s skipper is fully aware of the dangers of getting ahead of oneself and is speaking from experience. In 2009, England allowed themselves to dream of reclaiming the urn but promptly lost the ensuing match at Headingley by innings and 80 runs. It has long been known that when England are favourites they have habit of slipping up. With fragility of Australia’s line-up in mind, England know that if they win the first two or three session there will be no way back the tourists.
Aussie selection dilemmas
Australia are intent on making wholesale changes to match the ones which England are mooting. David Warner, Mitchell Starc and Nathan Lyon could all come in – but for who? Phillip Hughes could miss out after his abject showing at Lord’s but that would unjust when you take into account his ‘marshalling’ of Ashton Agar at Trent Bridge, where the pair put 163 for the 10th wicket. Hughes scored an unbeaten 81 in that innings. The absence of Lyon and Starc at Lord’s is arguably one of the reasons why Australia find themselves staring down the barrel going into the third Test. Both can rightly be upset at being dropped. Lyon was one of Australia’s standout performers on their humiliating tour of India earlier this year and, yet, he found himself carrying the drinks in place of the ‘young pretender’, Agar, in the first Test. Lyon for Agar seems the most obvious choice but with a traditionally dry Old Trafford on the cards then the Aussie selectors may go with two twirlers, instead of one. Starc, meanwhile, will probably take James Pattinson’s place after the right-arm quick was ruled out of the remainder of the series after Lord’s with a stress fracture of the back.
New and improved Old Trafford
The Emirates Old Trafford is the new name for the newly-refurbished and rotated Manchester ground. Lancastrians might not admit it, but the stadium was in desperate need of a lick of paint. There hasn’t been an Ashes Test here since 2005, meaning star seamer – and leader of England’s attack – James Anderson is yet to play against Australia at his home ground. He did, though, make it here as a spectator eight years ago when Old Trafford last hosted an Ashes Test. There were even concerns that with the rise of Chester-le-Street and The Ageas Bowl, Old Trafford may never host an international match again. Thankfully, one of the oldest grounds in the country underwent a face-lift by installing a modernised pavilion and two huge red buildings at either end of the ground. The square has even been rotated by 90 degrees. Australia will be hoping that Anderson – playing in front of his home crowd – fails to perform.