Second Test preview: England v Australia

Australia

Another Ashes Test is on our doorstep, and like the build up to the first installment at Trent Bridge, the days leading up to Lord's has been filled with drama for the Aussies and selection conundrums for England.

Another Ashes Test is on our doorstep, and like the build up to the first installment at Trent Bridge, the days leading up to Lord's has been filled with drama for the Aussies and selection conundrums for England.

In the three days since England won by 14 runs in Nottingham, the visiting skipper Michael Clarke has once again had his focus pulled from the cricket, and onto his former coach.

Mickey Arthur's supposed court case revelations of a dressing room divided have forced Clarke and new coach Darren Lehmann, and the other interviewed players, to spend more time insisting they're 'united' than actually discussing the team.

Oddly enough, this distraction worked out quite well for them ahead of the first Test, as no-one even thought to ask about teen spinner Ashton Agar. No-one mentioned him in previews, as it wasn't remotely considered that the 'intern' would play ahead of Nathan Lyon.

But selected he was, and shine he did. The shock announcement before the toss was soon obliterated by his world record 98 at number 11, and he then bagged a few wickets to boot and now the Oz selectors seem to have shot themselves in the foot.

It's fair to say Agar is a better batsman than Lyon, even on such sparse evidence, but while his bowling was calm and controlled, it wasn't anything that Lyon couldn't do. They can't drop Agar, surely? But the pressure is on him as he set his own bar very high.

In the pace department, rumours swirl that Tasmania fast bowler Jackson Bird could play ahead of Mitchell Starc. This would be to get another right-armer in the attack who can use the famous slope of the pitch to his advantage.

England's bosses have a similar bowling conundrum, albeit for form reasons. Do they drop Steve Finn, who was below par at Trent Bridge, and put in better-batsman Tim Bresnan? Or do they give Finn, whose average at Lord's, his home ground, is 20? That's better than Jimmy, by the way.

Alastair Cook has said they will decided on Thursday morning, when they can have a last minute look at the pitch. He then added that one had to make 'tough decisions' while still trying to be loyal to players. That does not sound good for Finn.

England's batting order is in no danger of changing, despite some top order failures from Joe Root, Jonathan Trott and Cook. No-one else has been called up, and the squad is the same, so they're safe and sound.

The same cannot be said for the Aussies, particularly Ed Cowan. The number three was sick in Nottingham, leaving the field regularly to throw up and spending most of day two in bed. He made a duck and 14 as a result.

It's been suggested that Usman Khawaja could take Cowan's place, given David Warner's departure this week to join the A-side in Zimbabwe and South Africa. The selectors might stick with Cowan though, to avoid too many changes.

Overall, eyes will be on Agar, the interactions between Clarke and Shane Watson (his supposed nemesis, according to Arthur) and whoever replaces Finn. Also, when Stuart Broad bats, the umpires will be VERY alert.

Speaking of umpires, it seems pertinent to mention who will be standing. Broad's mate Aleem Dar makes way for Agar's mate Marais Erasmus in the field, while Tony Hill takes Erasmus' place upstairs.

<b>Prediction</b><br>We reckon England will win this one by a slightly more substantial margin than the first Test, but still not a drubbing, while an Aussie batsman who is not Clarke will record a ton. Maybe Watson, who has gone 42 Tests with only two centuries.

<b>Key Men</b><br>For England, we're going to say <b>Kevin Pietersen</b> will be the man to watch. He has the best record at the ground of the current players, and only he and Cook have more than 1000 runs at Lord's. He will want to back up his half ton in the first game with a ton here.

The Australians really need to score runs. hey had a few half centuries last week, but no-one could push through and this will be vital at a ground that has a good batting deck. We're going to say <b>Chris Rogers</b> will be that man, given how composed he was in the second innings.

<b>Last Five Head-To-Head Results</b><br>2013, 1st Ashes Test: England won by 14 runs in Nottingham<br>2011 5th Ashes Test: England won by an innings and 83 runs in Sydney<br>2010 4th Ashes Test: England won by an innings and 157 runs in Melbourne<br>2010 3rd Ashes Test: Australia won by 267 runs in Perth<br>2010 2nd Ashes Test: England won by an innings and 171 runs in Adelaide

<b>Squads</b><br><i>England:</i> Alastair Cook (capt), James Anderson, Jonny Bairstow, Ian Bell, Tim Bresnan, Stuart Broad, Steven Finn, Graham Onions, Kevin Pietersen, Matt Prior, Joe Root, Graeme Swann, Jonathan Trott

<i>Australia:</i> Michael Clarke, Brad Haddin, Ashton Agar, Jackson Bird, Ed Cowan, James Faulkner, Ryan Harris, Phil Hughes, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, James Pattinson, Chris Rogers, Peter Siddle, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Matthew Wade, David Warner, Shane Watson.

<b>Dates:</b> 18-22 July<br><b>Morning session:</b> 11:00-13:00 (10:00-12:00 GMT)<br><b>Afternoon session:</b> 13:40-15:40 (12:40-14:40 GMT)<br><b>Evening session:</b> 16:00-18:00 (15:00-17:00 GMT)<br><b>On-field umpires:</b> Marais Erasmus, Kumar Dharmasena<br><b>Third umpire:</b> Tony Hill<br><b>Match referee:</b> Ranjan Madugalle

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