Australia bounced back in fine style to trounce England by 405 runs in the second Ashes Test at Lord’s, squaring the series at 1-1 but also securing a huge shift in momentum in the process.
The teams reconvene at Edgbaston, and Mark Jones talks us through the key battles:
Ian Bell vs. The Last Chance Saloon
Graeme Swann has suggested as much already, but the fact that Ian Bell is very clearly and publicly entering the last chance saloon here might actually end up playing to his and England’s advantage.
He’s in front of his own home crowd, and Bell will be desperate not to see his Test career finish with a whimper in the face of some hostile Aussie bowling and some disappointed locals.
He’s proven his quality in the past when he’s been thrust into such circumstances, and if Bell can emerge from the turmoil fighting and willing to stand up and be counted, then Edgbaston could be about to witness something special from one of their favourites.
Chris Rogers vs. Bouncers
The sudden and scary dizzy spell experienced by Chris Rogers in the second innings as Lord’s brought his match to a sudden end, and even left the Aussie opener fearing for his career as he admitted before this match.
Now passed fully fit, Rogers has claimed that the concerning moment wasn’t a result of delayed concussion after being hit by a James Anderson bouncer two days previously, but rather a different type of ailment altogether.
We all know the way that Test cricket works, though, and if England sense that Rogers is feeling uneasy under the short ball then they’ll try and expose him to as many as possible, with the 37-year-old emerging as a big wicket throughout the series.
Moeen Ali vs. Nathan Lyon
If Swanny says that the Edgbaston pitch will spin then it’ll spin, and that means that both Moeen Ali and Nathan Lyon emerge as key players for this contest.
Both have bowled well without generating too many headlines in the series already, and it might be that we have to wait until the second innings to see both hit the heights here, but with neither being a really big spinner of the ball it’s going to be fascinating to see how they get on.
Ali’s reinvention to becoming England’s frontline spinner has been a gradual process, but here’s there now and this could be his moment in the Ashes spotlight.
Jonny Bairstow vs. Nerves
With Gary Ballance dropped and both Bell and Adam Lyth under fire, England really are relying on new man Jonny Bairstow to hit the ground running as he comes into the team off the back of terrific form in the County Championship.
But Bairstow is a 25-year-old with just 14 Tests (and no centuries) to his name. Counting on him to deliver is something of a risky policy, and there have been no attacks as lethal as Mitchell Johnson, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood in the English domestic game this summer.
Bairstow is clearly a talent and is wonderful to watch when in full flow, but he can’t be expected to just come in and automatically accumulate runs, especially given the butterflies that are likely to be in his stomach.
Australia vs. A Different Pitch
The much-discussed pitch at Lord’s was of course the same for both sides, and Australia just proved to be far better at playing cricket on it.
After preparing such a flat wicket, you’d have thought that England would do everything in their power to make it an entirely different surface at Edgbaston, where they might do well to back their bowlers a little more.
We’ve already spoken about how Ali will get on here, but perhaps this could also be Anderson’s explosion into this series. He’s taken just three wickets across the two Tests so far, and you suspect that has to change sooner rather than later…
Read more from Mark Jones