The 2015 Ashes has charted a rather unpredictable path so far. Both sides were competitive in the opening Test at Cardiff before England pulled away towards the end, but Australia fought back with a superlative batting effort at Lord’s. However, if anyone felt that the visitors had the upper hand going into the third Test, it only needed England two-and-a-half days to quash any such thoughts. They reined supreme in the Edgbaston Test, and although that doesn’t make them favourites to win at Trent Bridge, the hosts will definitely have the upper hand since they are 2-1 up in the series. Australia have to work doubly hard from here.
Although England will head into the Test high on confidence, they will definitely be weakened by the absence of their strike bowler James Anderson. After a couple of ordinary games, Anderson really came into his own in the previous match before getting himself injured, which has ruled him out of the Trent Bridge match. England are not used to playing without Anderson, and it would be intriguing to view how they respond to the challenge, especially if the Australian batsmen get off to a good start like they did in the Lord’s game.
In the absence of Anderson, Stuart Broad will have to be the leader of the attack. But, the question of who would replace the injured bowler remains. Mark Wood is most likely to take his place, but he too is having injury issues of his own, and his recent form hasn’t been great. Liam Plunkett and the uncapped Mark Footitt are the other options England have. Whoever is chosen will have a massive task on hand. Also, the form of Adam Lyth is a worry. He hasn’t done anything of note in the three Tests so far.
For Australia, without doubt the performance of their skipper Michael Clarke would be under the scanner. Six consecutive failures is a luxury very few Aussie captains are allowed, knowing how ruthless Australian cricket is. There are already talks that another poor Test and it might be all over for Clarke. Without doubt, he will be under pressure to perform. Losing his place as well as the Ashes is not how Clarke would like to end his marvellous intentional career. But, whether Clarke still has it in him to deliver is what remains to be seen.
Another big decision Australia need to make is over Adam Voges. Like Clarke, he too has been a complete failure in the middle order. Australia cannot afford so many non-performing batsmen. In case, the team thin-tank decides to keep Voges out, Shaun Marsh will come in to replace him. The other option is to give Voges another go, and drop Shaun’s brother Mitchell. But, that seems highly, which means the two brothers could be seen playing Test cricket together. Above all though, Australia need to find a way to get past England, and win the Test, or at least draw it to stay alive.
-- By A Cricket Analyst