Just a few weeks ago, English cricket was in the doldrums. After a complete failure of a World Cup had been followed by a disappointing tour of the West Indies, Peter Moores was dismissed, for a second time, as coach as yet another overhaul of the national team was launched. With England’s greatest rivals, and a team that won 5-0 the last time they met, set to arrive for the Ashes, the mood was not a positive one.
Yet, the feeling could not be more different ahead of the start of the second Ashes Test at the home of cricket, Lord’s, on Thursday.
There had been encouraging signs ahead of last week’s first Test. A new positive attitude had lifted the spirits during a One-Day International series against World Cup runners-up New Zealand, but still, changing formats and going up against a strong Australia team, they remained huge underdogs. That perception was already starting to change after the first day in Cardiff, with Joe Root hitting a century en route to a big first-innings total of 430. By the end of the fourth day, England had cruised to a 169-run victory to deliver the first blow of the summer. Captain Alastair Cook is not getting carried away, but is raring to go as England look to take a 2-0 lead in the five-match series, which they need to win on order to regain the Ashes.
“It's always nice to be underdogs isn't it?” he said in his press conference. "Australia are still probably favorites, they've only got to retain, I suppose.
“But the series is not played on paper, it's not played on potential, it’s on what people deliver, and in that first game we played pretty well. As always the next challenge starts tomorrow at Lord’s, which is a great place to play cricket.”
For Australia, a hugely disappointing start to the series has worsened in the time since. Having already lost bowler Ryan Harris on the eve of the Ashes, experienced wicketkeeper Brad Haddin will now miss the Second Test for personal reasons, meaning that 29-year-old Peter Nevill will be called in to make his Test debut. As Australia try to bounce back from their heavy defeat in Wales, there are also strong reports that veteran all-rounder Shane Watson will be dropped following a poor run of form, with Mitchell Marsh set to come into the lineup. Captain Michael Clarke would not confirm or deny that change, but was bullish about Australia’s chances of leveling the series.
“I don’t know what the XI is so I don’t know how anybody else does at this stage,” he said. “Unless the selectors have spoken to the media before they’ve spoken to the captain and the team. There’s always speculation when individual players don’t perform as well as we would like. We always put ourselves in that position. But whatever the XI the selectors go with, I’m really confident in this squad that we can find a way to win this Test match.”
England have no reason to make any changes to their own lineup, although they are hoping that all-rounder Moeen Ali, who played a big role in their opening Test win, will overcome a side strain to take his place on the field.
Ashes Second Test Schedule
Thursday, July 16 – Monday July 20, starting at 6 a.m. EDT
TV channel: One World Sports (USA)
Live stream: ESPN3