Ashes 2013 3rd Test Preview: England eager to seal series against below-par Australia

Nathan Lyon (background, left) and David Warner (background, right) could come into the Australian playing XI for the third Test at Old Trafford © Getty Images

By Sarang Bhalerao
Jul 31, 2013
England will look to seal the five-match series with a win over a hapless Australia in the third Test match of The Ashes at Old Trafford starting Thursday. Australia, on the other hand, will look to make a comeback in the series and avoid the ignominy of seven consecutive Test losses, which will be a record they will look to avoid. It will be interesting to see who makes it to the Australian playing XI in this encounter as they look to get back in the series before it becomes too late.
In the tour game against Sussex Ed Cowan scored two half-centuries, showing glimpses of getting in good touch. Steven Smith’s century against Sussex has ensured his place is safe. Phil Hughes scored 84 in the first innings but it will be interesting to see if the Australian team management back in-form David Warner in the former’s place. Warner scored 193 against South Africa A last week and has the ability to get Australia off to a flying start.
There is a perceptible lack of intent from the Australian batsmen currently and Warner’s inclusion is almost inevitable since the batting unit has failed to notch up big scores. Australia dropped Shane Watson in the tour game against Sussex, but his medium-pace bowling gives Australia an option. Australia will hope that Watson combats his problems of getting leg-before and scores big — a thing they desperately need from one of their top-order players. Cowan might make it to the team in place of Chris Rogers, who was included in the team because of his county experience but has scored only one half-century from four innings so far. Usman Khawaja failed to impress in the tour game but his second innings half-century at Lord’s is good enough for him to retain to his batting spot. The onus of leading the batting falls on Michael Clarke who former Australian Ian Chappell feels should bat at No 3. But Clarke prefers the No 4 slot and will most certainly bat there.
The absence of James Pattinson is a huge loss to Australia. The possible replacement could be Jackson Bird seeing his form against Sussex at Hove. Australia might go with Mitchell Starc as well. Starc featured in the first Test at Trent Bridge and picked up five wickets in the match. In all probability, the spin bowling department will be headed by 19-year-old Ashton Agar. Peter Siddle and Ryan Harris will be Australia’s bowling lynchpins.
England cannot be complacent and will be wary of the fact that the third Test match has been their pet-peeve. In 2009, after being 1-0 up, England lost to Australia in the third Test at Leeds. In 2010, Mitchell Johnson bowled Australia to victory in the third Test at Perth. They should also be wary of the fact that the last time they were 2-0 up against Australia, in 1936, they lost The Ashes 3-2.
England’s worry is the possible fitness of their star batsman Kevin Pietersen, who could miss the berth in Manchester due to a side strain. His replacement would be Nottinghamshire batsman James Taylor, who scored an impressive ton against the Australian attack last week playing for Sussex. England’s batting has been impressive as the batsmen have put up big scores and looked confident in combating the Australian bowling. Skipper Alastair Cook will be looking to strike form while his opening partner Joe Root, who is fresh from a hundred at Lord’s, will be looking to pile on big scores. Jonathan Trott has missed out on a century at Lord’s, and at Old Trafford he has scored only three runs in the only game he has played at the venue. He will be expecting to carry on with his rich vein of form. Ian Bell has been the most successful English batsman at Old Trafford, scoring 486 runs in five Test matches at an average of 81. He has two centuries and three half-centuries at the venue.
England have included Monty Panesar in the squad for the third Test. He has had a tremendous record in Manchester. In the three games Panesar has played at Old Trafford he has picked up 25 wickets which include three five-wicket hauls and one 10-wicket haul. Looking at the susceptibility of the visitors to playing spin, Panesar’s inclusion in the playing XI is not a bad idea. Tim Bresnan might have to miss out. James Anderson, the local boy, will be spearheading the England attack. Stuart Broad will partner him with the new ball. Graeme Swann has implanted the seeds of suspicion in the minds of the Australian batsmen.
Old Trafford has witnessed some interesting games in The Ashes over the years. Jim Laker’s 19 wickets came at this venue, so has Shane Warne’s ball of the century. In 2005, the Australian final-wicket pairing saved the Test match after batting out four overs. But a draw will not be good enough for Australia to earn the urn.
If England win they will retain The Ashes, while an Australian win will open up the series. An Australian loss will look them set a record — seven straight defeats in Test. Now is the time for the young Australians to fight till the final drop of blood, because it is now or never.
England (Probable): Alastair Cook (c), Joe Root, Jonathan Trott, Ian Bell, James Taylor, Jonny Bairstow, Matt Prior (wk), Stuart Broad, Graeme Swann, Monty Panesar, James Anderson.
Australia (Probable): Shane Watson, David Warner, Ed Cowan, Michael Clarke, Usman Khawaja, Steven Smith, Brad Haddin, Ashton Agar, Peter Siddle, Ryan Harris, Mitchell Starc.
Time: 15:30 IST | 10:00 GMT
(Sarang Bhalerao hails from a family of doctors, but did his engineering. He then dumped a career in IT with Infosys to follow his heart and passion and became a writer with CricketCountry. A voracious reader, Sarang aspires to beat Google with his knowledge of the game! You can follow him on Twitter here)