With the 2015 Ashes tied 1-1, both Australia and England will be going all out to clinch a triumph at Birmingham, and go 2-1. If either side wins the Test, it would be a massive boost for them, since it would put them in with a great chance of taking the 2015 Ashes. The team that loses will be in great trouble since very rarely have sides managed to make a comeback after going 1-2 down in a five-match series. Having won the Lord's Test comprehensively, Australia might believe they are the favourites. But, it was the same case after England thrashed the Aussies at Cardiff. So, both sides would like to believe that they are in with an equally good chance.
Following the loss at Lord's, England have decided to make one significant change in the batting line-up. Gary Ballance, who has been constantly struggling in recent Tests, has been dropped for the third Test, and will be replaced by Jonny Bairstow. The latter has been in great form in domestic cricket, and has earned a deserved recall. But, this would be a big challenge for him, especially considering that Australia have troubled him in the past. The Test would also be important for Adam Lyth and Ian Bell, both of whom are in desperate need of runs. A big knock from Joe Root will be a massive boost for sure.
England struggled at Lord's since their batsmen couldn't hang around on an easy pitch. Their second innings collapse was disastrous. Still, they should be happy with the form of Alastair Cook and Ben Stokes, both of whom have displayed consistency with the bat. In the bowling, James Anderson looked off colour at Lord's. He will need to be back at his best. Stuart Broad impressed with his pace and aggression. But, he did not always have the wickets to show. As for Mark Wood, the real challenge would begin for him, as Australia will target him. In the spin department, England would again have high hopes from Moeen Ali.
The biggest concern for Australia going into the Edgbaston Test would be the availability of Chris Rogers. The opener, who missed the West Indies series due to concussions, suffered a blow on his head at Lord's, due to which he had to retire hurt. But, he has been in awesome form in his farewell series. In all probability, Rogers is expected to play at Birmingham. In case he doesn't, Shaun Marsh should get his deserved chance. Australia would also be pleased with the return to form of Steve Smith after a poor run in the opening Test. An in-form Smith makes Australia so much more dangerous.
In spite of the impressive nature of victory at Lord's, there are worries for Australia. The biggest concern will be the form of their skipper Michael Clarke himself. Already dogged by injuries, he is now suffering from lack of runs as well. Australia will need him back among the runs soon. Adam Voges did not get a chance at Lord's, and it remains to be seen what the Aussies do with Brad Haddin. They should be pleased with the bowling though. Mitchell Marsh made a tremendous impression with the ball. In combination with the other Mitchells -- Johnson and Starc --, he clearly gives Australia an edge over England.
--By A Cricket Analyst