TALKING points ahead of the third Ashes Test between England and Australia at Edgbaston on Wednesday:
CAN ENGLAND BOUNCE BACK?
Following a first Test victory at Cardiff, England were brought back down to earth with an emphatic bump after a 405-run thrashing at Lord’s. It wasn’t so much the defeat which left a sour taste, more their final day capitulation. That they were bowled out for 103 in the fourth innings on an apparently placid pitch raises questions of their stomach for the fight. Coach Trevor Bayliss and captain Alastair Cook must impress upon the side that another collapse is unthinkable if they are to regain the momentum in Birmingham.
WILL IAN BELL SINK OR SWIM AT THREE?
Quite simply, if the 32-year-old does not thrive in the remaining Tests then it is difficult to see how he can prolong a successful international career. A four-time Ashes winner and star of the last home series two years ago, Bell is going through an unenviable trough, averaging 20.84 in seven Tests this year. A move up to No 3 to replace the jettisoned Gary Ballance could prove the catalyst to Bell’s rejuvenation although some pundits have suggested his decline may be terminal due to slowing reactions. Over to you, Ian.
WILL CHRIS ROGERS BE FIT TO PLAY?
The sight of the veteran becoming disorientated at Lord’s would have brought back haunting reminders of Phillip Hughes’s on-field collapse last year although his troubles were later attributed to a “delayed ear problem” caused by being hit on the helmet by James Anderson’s bouncer two days previous. Australia will be desperate to field one of their in-form players and will probably make a late decision on Rogers, who missed last month’s two Tests in the West Indies due to concussion caused by being struck by a lifter in the nets in the Caribbean.
CAN JONNY BAIRSTOW TRANSLATE COUNTY FORM?
The Yorkshireman has had several bites of the cherry at international cricket but has yet to make a lasting impression. Something seems to have clicked with Bairstow now, though, and his form in the LV= County Championship, where his average is well in excess of 100 in seven matches this season, has made him difficult to ignore, even discounting England’s top order struggles. The England selectors appear to have full faith in the 25-year-old by putting him at five in the order and there is growing optimism that he can take his chance this time.
BRAD HADDIN OR PETER NEVILL?
Haddin’s much-publicised horror show in Cardiff led many to suggest he would be replaced by back-up wicketkeeper Nevill at Lord’s, but the 37-year-old took the decision out of the selectors’ hands by sitting out at HQ for personal reasons. Haddin was back on duty in the tour match at Derbyshire last week, remains Australia’s so-called spiritual leader and has made telling contributions against England in the past, not least the last time these sides met Down Under. However, Nevill hasn’t done much wrong since coming into the team. Who’d be a selector?
THE STATE OF THE PITCH
The pitch at Lord’s was almost universally panned as a batsman’s paradise even though England disintegrated to a staggeringly poor total on the fourth and final day, while many commentators lamented the surface at Cardiff. Therefore there will be a lot of scrutiny on the surfaces at the three remaining venues, starting at Edgbaston, where - brace yourself Australians - references to England’s two-run win 10 years earlier in the great Ashes 2005 series will be plentiful. Hopefully, the groundstaff in Birmingham can produce a pitch worthy of another terrific encounter.