Yesterday, England capitulated in rather embarrassing fashion to the Aussies at the home of cricket. Facing a nominal 509 to win, which really meant having to bat out five full sessions to earn a draw, England fell for 103 all out having made it through only one.
Some will now be speculating that the Australians have the upper hand and will roll onto a 4-1 series victory from here. But I’m not so sure. If you will recall 2005, when the Australians won the match at Lord’s (although by not quite not so heavy a margin, admittedly) before the two teams met next at Edgbaston, where England narrowly won what remains one of the great test matches of the last 20 years. If England can get their heads together, there is no reason why history can’t be repeated.
There were even some positives for England to take from Lord’s. Cook finally had a decent innings, and that was long, long overdue. Moeen continued his reasonable form this summer. Stuart Broad was England’s highest scoring batsman in the second innings (okay, that last one was clutching at straws). They also discovered that trying to set up deliberately slow pitches can backfire on you, which is more a positive for test cricket than England.
Can England recover and still win the series? Of course they can. But they should forget about the first two tests altogether and play and think positively. One of the problems regarding England going into this series was the feeling the team seemed to have around them that Australia are a much better side, and that England can only win on the sly – by jimmying the pitch, for instance. Instead, they should realise that if all eleven play to their potential, England easily stack up against the Aussies. Number 2 continues to be an impossible role to fill for England since Strauss’ retirement (no offence to Adam Lyth, but he really hasn’t cut it thus far), but apart from that I don’t see anything terribly fatal undermining the side (okay, spinning is still a concern, but as I mentioned, Moeen is getting better and Root weirdly has the ability to get wickets). Cook, Ballance, Bell, Root, Stokes, and Buttler can all bat at a very high level. They just need to make sure if they bat first in Birmingham, everything isn’t left to Joe Root to fix again (which, if you’ll remember, is what won the game for England in Cardiff. Sorry, I was telling England to forget the first two matches, wasn’t I?).
The nine day break before the third test should be good for England. I would resist calls to make major changes to the side – even Lyth I wouldn’t change at this point. Who would you move up or bring in? There are even some calls to drop Bell. All right, he’s been mostly rubbish in the Ashes thus far, but his 60 in the second innings at Cardiff was well taken (and it’s worth remembering, is 9 more than Lyth has so far accumulated in the entire series).
No, England as a team just need to believe in themselves again. I hope they can figure that out before Edgbaston, not just as an England supporter, but as someone who loves test cricket. If England can win there, this could turn out to be a classic Ashes series.