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A perfect 10: England dive into India

UK based Cricket Froth correspondent John Boon previews the massive upcoming Five Test Series between England and India.

A perfect ten: Haseeb Hameed will need to be when he becomes Alistair Cook’s 10th opening partner since the retirement of Andrew Strauss. At an average of about five tests per partner, the smart money would be on the 19-year-old Hameed making a swift return to county cricket.

The England in India series starts in Rajkot today, six hours from Hameed’s parents’ hometown. Along with Ben Duckett, however, Hameed is being counted upon to provide some extra ballast to a brittle batting line up. These two young batsmen have had stellar county seasons and at least one of them will need to hit the ground running.

But England’s selection lacks planning. If Hameed is ready now, and with Gary Ballance depleted of form and confidence (scores 1,9,9 and 5 in Bangladesh), surely Hameed would have benefited from a couple of knocks under his belt in the recent drawn series with Bangladesh?

He instead faces a tough debut in India and both he and Duckettt, who debuted in Bangladesh with scores of 14, 15, 7 & 56, will be up against it facing the world’s no. 1 ranked bowler Ashwin and his left-arm sidekick Jadeja.

A bit like Australia with Smith and Warner, England have relied too heavily on two world-class batsmen, Cook and Root, and a bevy of all-rounders in the lower order. Cook has previous form in this neck of the woods, and if he can match his output from England’s last visit to India in 2012 (562 runs at an average of 80) that will go a long way towards a positive series result.

The trouble is? No-one has come close to replacing Graeme Swann and the events in Bangladesh provided more questions than answers.

Moeen Ali is a classy all-rounder, but can he take 20 wickets? The ace in the pack is the mercurial Jimmy Anderson. Anderson’s mastery of the swinging ball makes him a threat in all conditions. If he comes back for the second Test in top nick, England’s batsmen put the necessary runs on the board and Ali and co. improve their accuracy, we may have an upset on the cards. There appear to be too many ifs though and India will start as favourites.

Hooray for Harare!

The past few months have been great for Test Cricket.

  • We’ve seen a resurgent Pakistan, at their best since the 1990s
  • Bangladesh recorded an historic Test match victory against England
  • Sri Lanka beat Australia in a series for the first time
  • Even the West Indies have displayed positive signs in their recent series against Pakistan.

Best of all though?

Test cricket has returned to Zimbabwe. The current Test against Sri Lanka in Harare is Zimbabwe’s fourth in recent months and the hosts have not been embarrassed. The greatest format of the game must keep the momentum up in 2017.

John Boon

UK based Cricket Froth correspondent

 

 

Next gen destroy Aussies

 

No AB de Villiers, virtually no Dale Steyn and only 1 run from Hashim Amla… yet South Africa have thrashed a full-strength Australia.

This raises two clear points:

  • Australia is a mediocre cricket side
  • South Africa have a strong squad with fabulous new talent

To be fair Australia displayed some fight on the fifth day. Khawaja’s 97, Peter Nevill’s four hour 60 not out and the tail’s resistance showed some much needed spine. South Africa deserve the accolades though.

Man of the Match Kagiso Rabada. Wow. The 21 year old from Johannesburg averages under 25 with the ball from his first 9 Tests and looks a real gem.

Rabada first attracted interest in Australia in 2014 when he played for South Africa A at Townsville’s  Tony Ireland Riverway Stadium, a possible venue for a home Test against Bangladesh in 2017.

Rabada became a cult hero with local fans from Norths Cricket Club in Townsville who enjoyed the youngster’s raw pace and fire.

Two years later Rabada slaughtered Australia’s Test top order at Perth. Quick, accurate, swung it both ways and demonstrated he has a great attitude. He took the time to shake Usman Khawaja’s hand when he was dismissed for 97, a sign of maturity and good character, and accepted the man of the match award with great humility.

After Steyn’s withdrawal Rabada shouldered a big workload with seam partner Vernon Philander who  – as an overweight medium pacer – continues to defy the odds and take lots of wickets. But it’s the young guys that will excite South Africans.

Rabada spearheaded a group of 5 under 30 who made definitive contributions in Perth; Maharaj, de Kock, Elgar and Bavuma. The future looks bright for Protea cricket.

Australia’s youth appears less convincing. Channel 9’s lunchtime cricket show ran a feature on Pat Cummins. The story focused on the injury-riddled pace bowler’s recovery from injury… again.

We all hope this young man sorts his body out. But the Cummins story has been running a long time.

He has played 8 First Class matches and 1 Test Match since 2011. Maybe its time to move on and focus on nurturing players from the youth teams?  Or feature stories from the Sheffield Shield?

In other cricketing news; India host England for 5 Test matches beginning on Wednesday in Rajkot.

It will be a fascinating series. England beat India 2-1 last time they toured but England’s recent 1-1 draw with Bangladesh and a reinvigorated India under Virat Kohli indicates that a thrilling series is about to begin.

Australia’s next Test against South Africa begins in Hobart on Saturday.

Rotten batting, again

 

Rotten batting. Fabulous fightback.

Sums up day two at the WACA. Australia squandered an almost impregnable position at Perth. They had the game by the short and curlies at stumps on day 1 after they had bowled South Africa out for a cheap 242 and sailed to 0/105.

By stumps on day 2 South Africa led by 102 runs and were in the box seat to beat the Australians, who had lost 10/86 either side of lunch on a fabulous batting strip.

The acronym WTF comes to mind, but nobody should be surprised. Absolutely nobody.

Cricket Froth predicted this type of scenario would unfold throughout the summer. The prediction wasn’t based on some specialist inside knowledge. Australia’s batting is really quite poor.

They have been susceptible to devastating batting collapses for several years.

Cricket Froth described this trend in October 2014. I detailed how Brad Haddin – at number 7 – saved Australia in virtually every major game-changing innings of the home 2013-14 Ashes Series win against England.

The Aussies won 5-0. The mainstream media tarted up the Aussie performance, which at times was amazing. Mitchell Johnson’s fast bowling was as good as anything ever seen in the game, including the great West Indians.

But the issue of the collapsible batting was lost in the archives. The collapses have continued since then, most notably away from home.

This home summer is going to be really tough because it looks as though the mediocrity is going to be difficult to contain.

The worst thing for the neutral was the best thing for Australia today; Dale Steyn’s injury. A potential blow for the series. This might offer a glimmer for the Aussies as they look ahead to their inevitable run chase, which is still a long way off yet.

 

 

Under Siege

Hard-wicket home ground bullies. Is that a fair label for Australia?

  • Three wins from the last 20 Test Matches played in England
  • One win from the last 17 Test Matches played in Asia

The public’s memory is shaped by strong performances either side of Christmas. Mid-year series losses on the sub-continent are obscured by the winter football codes.

The fifteen years without an Ashes win in England is papered over by the two 5-0 thrashings of England in Australia (the notable exception being Australia’s 3-1 loss at home 2010-11).

This summer promises something different. Australia is on the back foot.

It faces strident opposition with three Test Matches against South Africa beginning on Thursday in Perth and ending with a pink ball  day-night fixture in Adelaide.

Then its three Tests against Pakistan around Christmas.

Australia will find it tough to prevent a summer of losses. Both touring sides look more stable and Pakistan have form and a formidable line up.

The Proteas will miss the injured AB de Villiers but the batting looks solid. Their attack is capable of shredding the collapsible Australians and the Saffers have beaten Australia at home twice in the last decade.

Meanwhile Australia doesn’t know who its best eleven is.

Shaun Marsh is back again, this time to open. Marsh scored a ton in Sri Lanka when he replaced Joe Burns, so his place is vindicated but we’ll see Burns again before 2017.

Crowd favourite Peter Siddle also returns and Adam Voges is the middle order glue.

Peter Nevill needs runs. Usman Khawaja was dropped for a lack of them in Sri Lanka but is back again. If Warner and Smith fail, who will go big?

Mitchell Marsh is a concern.

We all have big hopes he can become our Ben Stokes, a thriving all-rounder capable of winning matches with centuries (Stokes has 3 from 27 Tests, Mitchell has none from 18) and bowling tight spells when the strikers need rest.

Marsh averages 36 with the ball, which is OK. But Marsh’s batting worries most. He averages 24, a paltry return for a number 6.

You need 20 wickets to win a Test and if Mitchell Starc fails to blast away touring batsmen, Australia’s bowling suddenly looks mild.

Hazlewood is accurate, shapely even but was virtually impotent in Sri Lanka. Nathan Lyon failed to make a dent on spin-friendly decks there either. If Lyon has a lean summer, is his time up?

Success at home is common but Australia’s record away is poor. For some this is tolerable, as long as the legendary Aussie summer is punctuated by tumbling opposition wickets and big runs.

But this summer will offer intrigue and high drama because the Aussies will be under siege.

The hard-wicket home ground bully tag may become irrelevant should the tourists dispatch the locals over the fence.

How would the public respond?

 

Hard-wicket home ground bullies?

Australia is rightly recognized for being one of the strongest cricketing nations on the planet. It is tough to beat Australia at home but Australia has been incredibly poor away from home for at least a decade.

Tours to the Asian sub-continent against Pakistan and India have always been difficult but Australia’s first series loss in Sri Lanka recently has added to a growing burden.

The Aussies have now lost eight matches in a row and won only one of its last 17 Test Matches in Asia. 

England, South Africa and New Zealand have each won more Test Matches in Asia than Australia since 2005. England has also won a series in India and South Africa has defeated Pakistan.

The Australian struggle is not isolated to Asia. It hasn’t won a Test series in England for fifteen years, winning only three of the last twenty Ashes Matches in England.

So when the mainstream media suggest that Australian batsmen have a problem with spin on Asian wickets, remind yourself that they can’t seem to get it right against pace or swing in the home of cricket either.

So is it a problem with playing away?

Well, Australia has enjoyed success in South Africa but the dispute between the nations over scheduling has limited the length  of Test Series played there and robbed fans and players of some potentially great contests (both countries share the same summer season and neither will give up its lucrative Boxing Day and New Years’ Tests for one another; shorter series are instead scheduled on the fringes of the southern summer).

Australia plays limited series in New Zealand and with Australia committing to shorter series and fewer Test Matches in the Caribbean recent successes there should be considered in context.

Although home sides invariably win Test Series, other nations have not struggled as much as Australia. South Africa has won two Test series each in England and Australia since 2005 and England won one in Australia in 2010-11. Sri Lanka has won as many Tests in England as Australia since 2005 and both it and New Zealand have drawn series in the Old Dart.

True cricketing might was traditionally adjudged on the level of success earned in different conditions around the world.

So are recent Australian teams hard-wicket home ground bullies?

Pink Ball Nights

Some will call it historic. But futuristic is more appropriate.

Day-night Test cricket is almost here. How long it stays is anyone’s guess.

The outcome of events at the Adelaide Oval in the next few days will have an enormous impact on the concept. This has the potential to reshape the future of the world’s greatest game.

Everybody will have an opinion on the pink ball.

Adelaide will be radically different from the draw at the WACA last week. There will be a result.

Although in recent years Sheffield Shield matches have been played at night with the pink ball and New Zealand have just played a warm up match in similar conditions, both sides will step into the unknown.

This increases the mystery behind the occasion.

New conditions, altered playing times and different equipment will be tested.

The lunch and tea breaks have been swapped. The pitch has been doctored to suit the fragile pink ball and more grass than ever can be expected on a wicket likely to assist bowlers more than batsmen.

Huge crowds will flock through the gates and the scene will be spectacular. The striking images of the incredible India-Pakistan Cricket World Cup Match at the Adelaide Oval in 2015 will be remembered.

India Pak CWC2015

A result is assured on what is expected to be a seam bowlers paradise. Batting at dusk will be difficult.

Vision will be restricted as the setting sun competes with artificial lights. Facing a thunderous 150kmph spell from a pack of carnivorous fast bowlers will be tougher than usual.

Fielding in the deep won’t be fun either.

We all dread the skied shots that slowly make their way to us in the deep. They should be easy, but diving away in the gully for a one handed grab seems like a cinch after you try to chest mark a ‘sitter’ on the fence and it rockets off your collar bone for four.

If you’re not in Adelaide then get yourself down the local tomorrow afternoon and take a peak at cricket’s future.

India v South Africa

Can you believe it?

We’re into the Third Test between these two cricket juggernauts and the highest innings score so far is 215!

That’s right. India has prepared some feisty wickets for South Africa’s tour.

The first Test was a titanic battle and a revolving door for batsmen. India won by 108 runs and the Second Test was destroyed by rain after the Proteas were rolled for 214.

At Nagpur yesterday the Proteas knocked India over for 215 without the injured Dale Steyn or the dropped Vernon Philander. But they are 2/11 in reply.

Expect all out war on day two as South Africa battle to make a three figure score on a low spinners paradise in front of a massive Indian crowd.

 

 

 

 

House of Cards: it’s not over in Perth

Australia lost 7/130 on day 2 of the Perth Test. Only 2 players got more than 50 in their 1st innings. They were bowled out for 60 and collapsed on demand in England 3 months ago. If New Zealand get a lead on day four, what are the chances of another collapse and a dramatic finish at the WACA?

Cricket administrators and telecasters will certainly hope something like this manifests. And it’s not impossible. Australia has collapsed often.

They have, perhaps with the exception of Chris Rogers, lacked players who are able to defy conditions and reverse the fortunes of momentum. When the game turns, Australia has inevitably collapsed.

In contrast they are red hot when momentum is on their side, when one or two players seize the day with a thunderous spell of fast bowling or a quick-fire ton.

David Warner did that in Perth on day one by blazing 247. Khawaja went with him for most of the day crafting a fine 121.

Australia started day 2 at an almost impregnable 2/416. Many chalked up a massive win for Australia.

But New Zealand fought back hard. They bowled exceptional lines on day 2 and restricted Australia to only 70 runs for the loss of two wickets in the morning session. An hour later Australia had lost another 5 wickets for 61 making 7/130 in three hours.

They were chasing quick runs for a declaration many said. They were collapsing I contend. There was no need to rush things and the strike rates of Australia’s batsmen prove that they did not (Mitch Marsh 34 from 64 balls, Voges 41 from 83, Smith 27 from 68).

At 9 down Steve Smith had enough and called the declaration at 559.

Thanks to world class batting from Kane Williamson (166) and Ross Taylor (235*) New Zealand had amassed 6/510 by stumps on day three.

“It’s a road” went the familiar cry. Yes. This is not a quintessential Perth pitch but this is a fascinating Test Match. Nobody should think that the batting clinic put on by Warner, Khawaja, Williamson and Taylor was simply the product of a conducive wicket. Those innings were world class.

Taylor’s defiance of the second new ball spell yesterday should go down in the ages. Mitchell Starc bowled between 150 and 161.8kmph in 40 minutes of wrath and fury that snapped Brendon McCullum’s bat.

At present, New Zealand is only 15 runs from leading the Test Match.

Of course, the short-priced favourite is a draw but with 175 overs to go, who would seriously suggest that this Test Match is already over?

Only those who haven’t seen Australia bat very often in the past 5 years.

Aussie Test squad announced amid raging New Zealand controversy

Aaron Finch and Ryan Carters were dropped by their state teams for the opening Sheffield Shield round. What happened next shocked everyone.

The pair rushed out to Blacktown to play in a tour match against New Zealand.  The Cricket Australia XI won the toss and Finch and Carters opened the batting.

Eight hours later…  both had made double hundreds and broken an 81 year old record for the largest partnership in First Class cricket on Aussie soil.

On 209 Carters finally edged to keeper and the declaration came at 1/503 (Finch 288 not out).

But that’s when things got weird.

New Zealand immediately declared their innings and did not come back out.

The Black Caps expressed concern about the ‘safety’ of the Blacktown pitch. But you can’t just walk off half way through a First Class match!

It’s unprofessional. The Black Caps bottled it! Thousands of amateur cricketers play on far worse surfaces every week.

How bad could it have been? There were 500 runs scored in four sessions.

New Zealand had initially requested for the match to have its First Class status downgraded, which CA rejected. NZ then successfully lobbied to shorten the match from 4 to 3 days.

NZ claimed it wanted to get to Brisbane to ‘acclimatise’ ahead of the First Test.

But surely NZ just want to watch the Rugby World Cup final at 3am Sunday morning instead of having to get up and play First Class cricket!

I can’t understand why they’d want to watch the All Blacks get trampled into the Twickenham turf by Michael Chieka’s Wallabies, can you?

New Zealand rejected the opportunity to have its top order bat on a pitch where 500 runs were scored in four sessions. They've only got a Test Match next week...

New Zealand’s top order must be seething after it was denied the opportunity to bat on a pitch where 500 runs were scored in four sessions. They’ve only got a Test Match coming up next week…

It has been a massive year for trans-Tasman relations; Australia defeated New Zealand in the netball and cricket World Cup finals and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was recently scolded by New Zealand PM John Key for the off-shore imprisonment of New Zealand citizens.

The Rugby final has added to the background noise leading into what will be a hotly contested Test series.

Australia have named their squad for next week’s Gabba Test:

Smith (c), Warner (vc), Burns, Hazlewood, Khawaja, Johnson, Lyon, MMarsh, Nevill, Starc, Siddle, Voges.

Rolled for 60: what’s the problem?

Is there a link between Australia’s 60 all out and the poor governance strangling global cricket?

Test cricket is a vital sign of the game’s health. The 2015 Ashes Series has delivered four thrashings. Only twelve days of cricket have been played from a possible twenty. Both Cardiff and Lords were over inside four days and Edgbaston and Trent Bridge barely spluttered into day three.

No Australian side has been beaten in a Test Match inside two days since 1892. Australia lasted twenty minutes on day three at Nottingham. That demonstrates the gravity of what happened. Of course, Australia was knocked over before lunch and in 18 overs – the quickest first innings of a Test Match ever.

But it wasn’t an isolated event.

Australia’s 2015 Ashes collapses:

  • Australia lost 5/50 to finish their 1st innings at Cardiff. They went from 1/97 to 7/151 in the second innings.
  • They played well at Lords, made over 800 runs. But Smith and Rogers made 495 between them. Only one other Aussie (Warner) made it to fifty!
  • In Birmingham they were bundled out for 136. In the 2nd dig, six of the top seven batsmen made single figure scores. Warner’s 77 pushed them to 7/153 before lower order fifties from Starc and Nevill pushed them over 250.
  • 60 all out in record time at Trent Bridge preceded another 2nd innings collapse. This time it was 0/112 to 7/236, then all out for 253.

The responses

Perhaps the most alarming response came from Michael Clarke after the infamous 60. In the post-match press conference he said “I’ve always maintained that when the bowling gets better, you need to be more aggressive”.

Clarke’s on-field captaincy has been good. He’s been a world class batsman but this comment troubled me. Aggression isn’t the only way to fight back in difficult conditions, preserve your wicket during a collapse or resist a good spell. At 5/29, 30 minutes into day one of the fourth Test, Clarke went the aggression route. He tried to hit a wide ball for six over extra cover and snicked up to second. 6/29, goodbye Ashes.

Aussie fans were pretty angry and shocked but cricket’s establishment has virtually dismissed the collapse as a ‘one-off bad day’. They’ve referred to the victory at Lords and suggested that performance is evidence of Australia’s might. Hmmm, dubious.

Surely this series is finally a sign that the bigger issues affecting cricket have now leaked onto the field?

A decade of increasingly rampant administrative negligence and the dismissal of the Australian club cricket pyramid are now delivering what was always promised.

Big Bash versus the Sheffield Shield

Shunting the Sheffield Shield to periphery of the Australian summer to accommodate eight weeks of franchise 20/20 is damaging the game at the highest level. It also means that while Australia is playing home Tests all of its domestic players are attempting reverse sweeps and bowling darts with white balls. What if the Test side needs to call up a new player?

The Big Bash League may ignite commercial interest in the game, but it is destroying player development and eating away at First Class cricket. It’s happening everywhere and the effect is systematic. Down at club cricket level two day cricket is increasingly reduced to accommodate 35-50 over cricket. India’s First Class Ranji Trophy is gutted by the IPL, which in turn clashes with the traditional Test match summer in the Caribbean.

Cricket Froth has previously suggested that 20/20 does provide cricket with a unique opportunity.

But there is no conversion-of-interest strategy to capitalise on the ‘new audience’ attracted by T20.

Cricket should be converting at least 20% of the new interest generated by T20 into other forms of cricket. But cricket administrators are missing out and soon enough, the opportunity will be gone.

The monetary benefit generated by T20 appears to be siphoned off into private pockets too because there’s relative little done to promote and expand the game in associate countries.

Australia’s cricket establishment is also increasingly promoting a system that ignores the traditional club cricket pyramid, placing schools and academies of excellence at the sharp end of player development. Whichever player’s parents can afford the fees gets a fancy tracksuit for their son or daughter and away they go, presumably off to a lengthy career of cricket stardom. Not so.

Of course, Australia’s dire performances with the bat cannot only be blamed on T20.

The sense of occasion, the crowd, the pressure and excellent bowling play their part. Many have cited ‘conditions’ as an issue. But that argument links back to T20. Players are no longer toiling away in county cricket and acquiring the skills to adapt to different pitches and balls. They’re off playing in the IPL or the Caribbean crunch or simply having a rest after an Australian summer overloaded with short-form.

England does not escape this either. Let’s not forget that they were routed at Lords on a batsman friendly feather-bed for 103 in 37 overs. And bowler Stuart Broad top-scored with just 25.

It seems that tremendous performances like Sri Lanka’s massive fight-back against India last week are rarer than they were many years ago. The Galle Test Match proved just how brilliantly entertaining Test cricket can be. If only it were promoted so?

Michael Clarke and Chris Rogers’ final Test match

These two bow out of Test cricket this weekend. Clarke averages 49 from 114 matches and I hope he can make a big hundred to nudge that average back over 50. That’ll be a fitting end to a great career on the park and a divisive presence in the dressing room.

Chris Rogers has only played 24 Tests and averages 42. But his performances over the last two years have been excellent. He was the leading run scorer across the 10 Ashes Tests played in 2013 and 2013-14 and in this series he has shielded Australia from further embarrassment, by again leading the runs for Australia.

Where is the game going?

Everybody should watch the Four Corners investigation of cricket’s ‘big three’. India, Australia and England are choking the game and private interests and short-term gain have been prioritised. Altruism in cricket administration is dead.

Rediscovering the romance of Test Cricket: The Future

Carry on, reform or radicalise: where to for Australia’s batting line-up at Trent Bridge?

To win in England for the first time in 14 years, Australia must now win two Tests in a row. Radical action and all selection options must be considered. Including Shane Watson.

Sure, Australia can win one and draw one and retain the Ashes. To some that is the primary goal, but the longer the streak without a series win in England continues the bigger the monkey grows. Fourteen years is long enough.

I think Australia must shed any hint of conservatism and go hard at winning both Tests. Well that’s stating the obvious I suppose, but to achieve that objective radical thinking is required. Michael Jeh over at ESPN Cric Info has kicked off the radical ideas by suggesting Australia should consider picking Steve Magoffin.

The 35-year-old Magoffin is currently kicking about with Sussex and has finished in the top two wicket takers in Division One County Cricket in the last two seasons. Jeh cites the successful example of Chris Rogers; a sage old character who knows the conditions. Magoffin has played 131 First Class matches and averages 23 with the ball. But it won’t happen. If anyone’s going to get a go, it will be Peter Siddle.

Although it could improve, the bowling isn’t really the problem anyway. Mitchell Johnson is right when he says that Australia has not bowled in partnerships. They did at Lords but not in Birmingham, where too many pressure release deliveries were offered. Case in point: Hazlewood traps Adam Lyth LBW in England’s 4th innings chase of 120-odd and then bowls a wide, half-tracker to England’s best batsman who smashes a four the next ball. In fairness though, Australia’s bowlers weren’t given a chance by the Aussie batsmen.

People have been saying that if you win the toss and bat then you win the Test, but that’s nonsense and Birmingham proved that. Perhaps Clarke should have bowled, hindsight-ologists will say. But perhaps he was spooked by Ponting’s decision to do so in 2005. Who knows, but citing ‘conditions’ every time the batsmen fail is a cop out.

The fact is Australia’s batting seems like a one trick pony; they can bully and dominate opposition attacks when the match momentum is in their favour, they look great setting a declaration total. But at 3/50 they’re increasingly less able than past sides to fight their way back to ascendency. Temperament, mentality, psychology, technique, whatever you like. When the crowd is behind England and it gets a bit hard out there, jenga time.

It happened in 2005, 2009, 2013 and it’s happened in four of the six innings Australia has batted in 2015.

Trent Bridge will not be any easier. Like Edgbaston, the crowd will be rowdy and right into Australia and they need to harden up. Johnson’s response to the crowd at Edgbaston was fantastic and his management of the pressure is the template.

Selection musings

The next time Australia tours England will be 2019 and the prospect of 18 years without a series win should be enough to motivate armchair sports frothers to ponder what can be done to win at Trent Bridge. Obviously we can’t play the game, but we can speculate about the team.

The conservative amble

Simple. Stick with the same XI and tell ’em to execute better.

The responsive centrist

Adam Voges hasn’t done enough. Time for a rest sunshine. Shaun Marsh gets the nod here.

The reformist agenda

Voges still goes and Shaun Marsh still comes, but slots in at four and Michael Clarke heads down to hide at 5. The bowling needs to be reignited too, so either Starc or Hazlewood makes way for Siddle.

The radical approach

Go make a cuppa tea, take a deep breath and sit down before reading this.

Rogers, Warner, Smith, S Marsh, Clarke, M Marsh, Nevill, Watson, Johnson, Hazlewood/Starc, Lyon.

Yep that’s right. Either Starc or Hazlewood sits out for Watson and he bats at eight and bowls his heart out after Johnson and Starc/Hazlewood take the new cherry. Mitch Marsh offers further back-up with Lyon. The batting has been a nightmare and Watson was a part of that in Cardiff, but this radical idea may just stiffen Australia’s batting without losing too much from the bowling. Watson’s Test batting average is better than Andy Flintoff’s and his bowling average is almost identical and many consider Flintoff to be one of the greatest all-rounders in modern cricket. Just saying…

England has benefited immensely from the runs of Moeen Ali at 8 and he isn’t scoring them through luck. He’s a genuine batsman who bowls some handy spin. His 77 at Cardiff and 59 at Birmingham were game changers.

Ok, calm down. Have another cuppa, stats aren’t everything and Watson’s Test career is probably over and the centrists or reformists will probably win. However, if Voges keeps his spot perhaps Shaun Marsh comes in for one of the bowlers and Mitch Marsh goes to 8?

England

They were superb at Edgbaston. Steve Finn was brilliant and they’ll take some serious stopping now that Ian Bell is in form alongside Joe Root. They have lost James Anderson though. The impact of his absence cannot be overstated. It has been somewhat glossed over in the aftermath of Finn’s contribution but it does weaken England’s bowling, which strengthens the centrist and reformist agendas in Australia’s selection debate.

A friend of mine in England suggested that Adam Lyth should be dropped for Adil Rashid who will slot in at 8 while Moeen Ali will be promoted to open with Cook. He argues that Ali would compliment Cook’s style and that Rashid provides an extra spin option and is a capable middle-order batsman. Johnson’s short-ball dismissal of Ali at Lords could stymie this option though, but it certainly has merit.

Whoever is picked I’m predicting… in fact I’m not predicting anything. This series is too hard to figure out.