Preview: Will Jofra Archer prove to be England's Ashes X-factor against Australia at Lord's?

Jofra Archer bowls during a nets session at Lord’s © Getty Images

Big Picture

From the match they weren’t expected to win to one they’re not expected to lose my, how quickly things can change during the Ashes.

Australia were given little hope of breaching Fortress Edgbaston and that was before they slumped to 122 for 8 on the first day of the series opener. What might have happened had Steve Smith not produced the innings of his life with a match-saving century, not to mention backing it up with another ton in the second innings? What might have happened had England not lost pace spearhead James Anderson to a calf injury after he had bowled just four overs? But look deeper. The first Test was much more than a few sliding-door moments and what ifs. Sides don’t win matches by 251 runs on the back of fortune alone.

The vastly experienced Peter Siddle was sound in his support of Smith where others had failed, his innings of 44 crucial to Australia’s early recovery effort. Matthew Wade’s 110 came amid a more rounded batting performance by the Australians in the second innings, when Travis Head, Usman Khawaja and No. 8 James Pattinson all joined Smith in getting among the runs. Then there were Nathan Lyon and Pat Cummins whose 10 wickets between them in England’s second innings shut out Siddle and Pattinson, who had contributed to a well-balanced bowling performance in the hosts’ first innings.

England were not without their performers, Stuart Broad and Chris Woakes putting Australia under intense pressure early on while Rory Burns’ timely maiden Test century came as Joe Root – batting a place higher than his preferred No. 4 – and Ben Stokes posted fifties. But Anderson’s injury and Moeen Ali’s poor returns left England’s bowling too thin. That is the area England have sought to address by calling on Jofra Archer and Jack Leach for the second Test at Lord’s. In the aftermath of defeat at Edgbaston, England coach Trevor Bayliss had rued England’s dearth of pace in the absence of Anderson and Mark Wood, who is dealing with side and knee complaints, and that was before Olly Stone was ruled out for at least two weeks with a recurrence of a back stress fracture.

It is in the management of pace stocks that this series may be won and lost, and where Australia appear to have the edge on England at this stage. With the “luxury” of six fit fast bowlers, as Australia coach Justin Langer put it, the tourists have opted to rest Pattinson for the second Test in favour of either Josh Hazlewood or Mitchell Starc. England, meanwhile, will be hoping Archer remains free of the side strain he suffered in the World Cup final and which kept him out of the first Test – and there is every indication he is fully fit – while looking to Leach for a reprise of his happy memories at Lord’s, this time with the ball after his 92 as nightwatchman earned him Player of the Match honours at the same ground against Ireland last month.

Form guide

England LWWLL (last five completed matches, most recent first)

Australia WWWDL

In the spotlight

Man of the moment – again – Jofra Archer finds himself in what is fast becoming a familiar position of England X-factor, and he hasn’t even made his Test debut yet. That latter point will be moot come Wednesday morning as Australia set about trying to implement Langer’s instructions to “keep wearing him down”. But, injury notwithstanding, Archer doesn’t cut the figure of a man who gets worn down. From his whirlwind rise as soon as he qualified for England to stepping up in the tense Super Over of an eventual World Cup triumph, Archer has done all that has been asked of him in his short international career. Yes, it is a huge ask to expect a 24 year old whose only red-ball cricket in 11 months was last week’s second XI appearance for Sussex against Gloucestershire which convinced selectors of his fitness following injury, to be the sole reason England can avoid going 2-0 down in the Ashes. He is one man and, even as Smith discovered amid his first-Test stardom, it takes more than that – ask Lyon, Cummins, Siddle and Wade. But there is no doubting that, with or without the injured Anderson, Archer is a massive plus for England.

David Warner had a quiet start to the Ashes with scores of two and eight, never mind that he should have been out when he wasn’t and he was out when he shouldn’t have been. He does win points for the way he handled the heckling from the Edgbaston crowd with good humour and a thick skin and while that doesn’t count for anything on a scorecard it can be seen as an important step in a return to Test cricket that is as much mental as it is physical. Now Warner needs to make like Smith and let his bat do the talking. He did just that during the World Cup in front of English crowds, so it is not a big stretch at all to expect him to transfer that to the Test arena and if he does, England could face double the trouble.

Team news

Jack Leach had a lengthy bowl in the nets on Test eve, while Archer put in a brief but fiery burst, suggesting there won’t be much in the way of surprises in the England team. Sam Curran looks most likely to miss out from the 12-man squad.

England: (possible) 1 Rory Burns, 2 Jason Roy, 3 Joe Root, 4 Joe Denly, 5 Jos Buttler, 6 Ben Stokes, 7 Jonny Bairstow, 8 Chris Woakes, 9 Jofra Archer, 10 Stuart Broad, 11 Jack Leach.

Hazlewood looks set for a return to the ground where he took 3 for 68 and 2 for 20 in his best performance of the 2015 Ashes, replacing the resting Pattinson. Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc – both left out of the Ashes opener at Edgbaston – were included as Australia named a 12-man squad on match eve with the prospect of a fresh and firing Pattinson at Headingley looming with just a three-day turnaround between fixtures. Whether both Hazlewood and Starc play is another matter, however, after Siddle’s performance with the bat in the first Test.

Australia: (possible) 1 David Warner, 2 Cameron Bancroft, 3 Usman Khawaja, 4 Steve Smith, 5 Travis Head, 6 Matthew Wade, 7 Tim Paine (capt/wk), 8 Pat Cummins, 9 Peter Siddle, 10 Nathan Lyon, 11 Josh Hazlewood.

Pitch and conditions

Not nearly as verdant as the lush greentop that welcomed players on the eve of England’s Test against Ireland, this Lord’s pitch is reminiscent of the one which hosted the gripping encounter between England and Pakistan in 2016. Pakistan won that match by 75 runs on the penultimate day after legspinner Yasir Shah added four second-innings wickets to his six from the first innings as the tourists claimed the 10 scalps they needed on what turned out to be the last day’s play. The weather does not look like playing ball, with cool temperatures and rain expected, particularly on Wednesday.

Stats and trivia

  • Australia have the chance to go 2-0 up, a position from which only one Test series in history has been lost (Australia defeated England 3-2 in the 1936-37 Ashes after trailing 0-2).
  • England have lost six of their last seven Tests against Australia with one draw.
  • Lord’s is a happy place for Australia, who have won six of their last 10 Tests against England at the ground. Before defeats in 2013 and 2009, Australia’s previous loss there was in 1934.

Quotes

“We’re in English conditions, we really back ourselves to perform and to come back strong after last week. We’ve proven that we do that time and time again when we when we’ve been defeated, especially at home. I’m expecting a big response from the boys. Last week will have hurt everyone, and everyone will be absolutely desperate to go and win this week. And I expect nothing less.”
Joe Root expects his team to bounce back

“I would have thought it would be in different circumstances. Nonetheless I’m really proud to be part of this Test side. I’m rapt to be playing international cricket again and to have a second opportunity, to have the captaincy is a great honour as well. It’s certainly one I didn’t want or expect but doing the job now, I’m thoroughly enjoying it.”
Tim Paine on returning to the scene of his Test debut in 2010

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Source: ESPN Crickinfo

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