Australia made up for their World Cup disappointment, when they were beaten by England at the semi-final stage, by handing the host nation a surprise defeat in the opening Test of the 2019 Ashes series and they are narrow favourites with sports betting companies to win again this week.
The Second Test at Lord’s, the prestigious home of cricket, starts on Wednesday August 14 and will be a hugely significant encounter that could well determine the fate of the Ashes, and Betcris make Australia the -120 favourites, with England available to back at odds of -110.
The main man for Australia has been former captain Steve Smith, who twice rescued his team in the opening Test at Edgbaston, scoring two gutsy centuries, and his outstanding contributions proved inspirational to the rest of the side. Matthew Wade scored a second innings century, while Usman Khawaja and Travis Head both contributed half-centuries. The Aussie tail wagged, too, with Peter Siddle, James Pattinson and Pat Cummins all making contributions, while experienced spinner Nathan Lyon took nine wickets in the match and six in the second innings.
There is a lot of work for England to do if they are to match the tourists in the Second Test and they will have to do it without James Anderson. The veteran swing bowler was passed fit for Edgbaston but suffered a recurrence of a calf muscle injury and hardly bowled all match. That gives the rising talent Joffra Archer a chance to show what he can do at Lord’s, but it will be asking a lot for him to fill Anderson’s shoes, so Stuart Broad will once again have to raise his game.
Finding a way to get Steve Smith out will naturally occupy a lot of England’s planning time ahead of Lord’s, and Moen Ali’s failure to take advantage of a helpful Edgbaston surface, as well as his general lack of form with the bat, has led to his being replaced by slow left-armer Jack Leach at Lord’s, although England may be tempted to go in with four front-line seamers.
Crucially, the England batting line-up has questions to answer after a disappointing performance in the First Test. Only Joe Root, Rory Burns and Ben Stokes scored significant runs, and all three failed in the crucial second innings. Jason Roy and Joe Denly are under the most pressure, while more will also be expected of Jos Buttler and Jonny Bairstow.
And the task facing them is only likely to get harder. Both Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood, who were absent in Birmingham, have been among the wickets in Australia’s recent tour match and both could be in contention at Lord’s, where Hazlewood’s nagging accuracy and Starc’s awkward left-arm swing could be particularly dangerous. Just as in the 1990s, when Australian sides dominated the Ashes, the Aussies are on the up and England will have to improve dramatically to level the series.