England mull over changes after cheap loss

Ben Stokes' schoolboy error sees him run out for a duck after failing to ground his bat, as Mitchell Johnson's throw from mid-wicket hits the stumps. England's top-order batsmen again failed to fire but unlike in Cardiff in the first Test, the middle
Ben Stokes' schoolboy error sees him run out for a duck after failing to ground his bat, as Mitchell Johnson's throw from mid-wicket hits the stumps. England's top-order batsmen again failed to fire but unlike in Cardiff in the first Test, the middle order did not provide much support.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • The selectors have much to ponder after England slumped to a crushing 405-run defeat by Australia in the second Ashes cricket Test at Lord's on Sunday.

One week after the team were lauded for their first Test victory, there are now calls for change in the top order .

After producing an excellent all-round performance to pull off a surprise 169-run win in Cardiff, England were completely outplayed on a similarly flat pitch.

What was the same in both games, however, was England losing top-order wickets cheaply - the difference at Lord's being that the middle order did not come to the rescue.

Batsmen Adam Lyth, Gary Ballance, Ian Bell and Joe Root failed twice and, although Root's place is not under threat following his brilliant century in Cardiff, the inability to get off to a good start is clearly a major concern.

England have traditionally been renowned for making knee-jerk changes to the team but under new coach Trevor Bayliss they will be reluctant to go down that route again.

However, loyalty only goes so far and Jonny Bairstow, who has been in prolific form for Yorkshire, could be brought in with Root perhaps promoted to No. 3.

"I am not really sure," said England captain Alastair Cook when asked about potential changes to the order. "It is something the selectors might have to look at.

"It's down to the players, I don't think it is where people bat. People have got to get stuck in and we did not quite manage to do that in this game."

There are question marks over the bowling attack, too. James Anderson, England's leading Test wicket-taker, failed to claim a single victim at Lord's, the first time since the 2010 match against South Africa in Johannesburg.

He needs pitches with more life than those prepared at Cardiff and Lord's, though Cook insists England have not been asking groundsmen to prepare flat, slow wickets.

Stuart Broad did bowl well, pitching the ball up more than Anderson or Mark Wood and earning his reward with four wickets in Australia's first innings.

Ben Stokes also failed to take a wicket as the fourth seamer and England may be tempted for a call-up of uncapped Mark Footitt, who has genuine pace and would provide left-arm variety, in place of Wood.

Australia were not afraid to make changes following their loss in Cardiff, bringing in all-rounder Mitchell Marsh for the more experienced Shane Watson and wicket-keeper Peter Nevill.

England will mull over similar moves but the smart money is on an unchanged side taking the field in the third Test at Edgbaston, starting on July 29, as they seek to establish continuity and stability at the start the Cook/Bayliss era.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 21, 2015, with the headline 'England mull over changes after cheap loss'. Print Edition | Subscribe