England had to start off well in the opening Ashes Test in Cardiff and they started off even better than that – they were absolutely fantastic.
The way they went about enjoying their cricket, with solid plans to go out and play in their own way and take the attack to Australia was a performance that really marked them down as a disciplined, high quality side.
But they must now take the aggressive mentality they brought into the First Test on to Lord’s.
Australia don’t become a bad side over night and there is a reason they went in as favourites at Cardiff, and are doing so again.
They’ve got some good match winners and are well led by Michael Clarke and Darren Lehman. And with their fantastic record at Lord’s, they are going to come back strong and come back hard in what should be another cracking Test match.
I think from the last performance everybody, including myself, underestimated England.
But one win doesn’t make a summer, they have to go out and replicate what they did in Cardiff. If they can do that they will be a very difficult side to beat.
However they must be careful not to go back into their bubble. Trevor Bayliss will be telling his charges “yes we are one-nil up, but let’s not get complacent, let’s remember how we played and lets go back and keep this game simple”.
That is what I hear and like about him, he keeps the game simple. It doesn’t matter that you are one-nil up but the next game is the next game. It doesn’t matter what happened in the last match, you still have to react to what is happening at this precise moment.
The fact that the next Test comes up just five days after the opener finished would probably suit England better because they are on top, and with injuries hitting the Aussies, the opportunity to force Mitchell Starc out again so soon after his ankle injury scare will benefit them.
But in a way last game is irrelevant. I don’t think there will be a lot of mental scarring in the Australian camp because they are only one-nil down and if they win at Lord’s it opens up for a fantastic series.
To have a chance of doing that Lehman will need to get his team executing their plans better. Score more runs and get your bowlers hitting their straps. It’s a simple as that.
When you’ve got a side and are looking at why they have lost a tie, it’s normally because they haven’t executed what they set out to do at the start of the game.
So without pressing panic buttons, I’m sure they will have a plan of how they want to play at Lord’s and if they go out to execute that better than they did in Cardiff then they will still be bang there come day five.
Australia’s big guns are under early pressure
Two players that have come in for a bit of stick for the Aussies are Mitchell Johnson and Shane Watson.
While he improved in the second innings at Sophia Gardens, Johnson’s first innings figures were terrible.
To be fair to him it wasn’t a pitch where he could blast people out and use his raw pace that he is blessed with. He is a handful when he swings the ball, so if he can get his wrist in the right place and get it swinging again he can be a real threat to the England batsmen.
It is a lonely place when you are out in the middle. Only you have the ball in your hand, only you can make that run up.
But it only takes one ball to change everything. You can have the worst net session in the world before the game, and then come out and bowl a million dollars, and likewise you can have the best nets and come out feeling great and bowl like a pack of spanners.
Watson, on the other hand, could be closer to finding his place at risk, with Mitchell Marsh waiting in the wings.
If he was picked as a batter then he didn’t do much, while if he was picked as an all-rounder then you would have to say that his bowling was very average.
Getting trapped by Mark Wood was the 13th time in 34 innings that he has found his front pad causing him issues against England, and “Leg Before Watson” has become an easy target for the home attack.
Bowlers will look at the stats, and know for example the method in which a batsman was out in his last 15 matches, be it caught in a specific place, bowled or caught LBW.
You will come up with plans for each batsman. Against Steve Smith, Jimmy Anderson and Co. didn’t bowl at his legs, rather opting to tempt him outside off stump, whereas against Watson they bowled them straight.
Root needs to stay at number five
As far as the England line-up goes it will be a case of more of the same.
Talk of moving Joe Root further up the order after he dazzled with the bat sounds far-fetched and unnecessary for me.
We tried it before and it failed. Why would you move him now? We saw a glimpse of Ian Bell getting back to his best in front of him and to see them both in full flow scoring runs together is fantastic.
Alastair Cook’s below-par score with the bat may have been vindicated by his out-captaining of Michael Clark, but he will be desperate to tot up at higher score at the home of cricket.
As a captain you want to lead from the front, especially as an opener. You know that if the side gets off to a good start it makes life a lot easier in the long run. But if he doesn’t score well it is good to see that he’s contributing with his captaincy.
But with Cook proving a able captain, the England batters coping well with the Aussie attack, and the visiting bowlers failing to hit their straps, my crystal ball says the feel-good factor can carry England to a fourth Ashes success on the bounce on home soil.
Matthew Hoggard was hired from the Champions After Dinner Speakers Agency.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.